Maloney's head in Sydney as NZ stint ends

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 11:11 02/09/2012
James Maloney
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
FINAL FIZZER: James Maloney's farewell from the Warriors has fallen flat with his poor form.

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His bags are packed; his head is in Sydney.

James Maloney has checked out early.

Maloney's three-year stint at Mt Smart ends in humble, deflating fashion against the Canberra Raiders today.

In a reflection of his major form slump and distant headspace, Maloney has been relegated to the bench for the first time at the Warriors.

Caretaker coach Tony Iro was fed up, allowing him no room for sentiment this week.

Iro's bold decision was justified - and well overdue.

"Over the last month I've felt a bit flat," Maloney admitted.

"I don't know exactly why. I've been down on where I'd like to be in terms of my form. It's just a matter of trying to get through it."

Maloney has hit some impressive notes at the Warriors, but, of late, you couldn't give away his soundtrack.

Riding the pine is a sad way to conclude his time in Auckland, where he prospered from Melbourne outcast to respected first-grade standoff.

"I'm not really fazed by it. There's no such thing as a fairytale. It is what it is," the usual cheeky Australian offered of his demotion.

All blame for the Warriors' woeful late season capitulation does not rest at Maloney's feet, but as the senior playmaker, he is responsible for some of the problems.

At his best, Maloney is a gutsy front-on defender. Forty-six missed tackles during the club's seven-match losing streak implies his mind hasn't been on the job at hand.

A wise league observer this week suggested it took a special character to remain focused - dedicated to the cause - when your future lies elsewhere. Few can achieve this.

Maloney started this year knowing he would soon switch allegiances to the Roosters. As that move grew closer and the Warriors fortunes rapidly curtailed, the easy option was to throw in the towel.

"Hopefully not," Maloney said when pressed if he had given up.

"I've tried to make sure I can do everything here until I leave. They've done a lot for me.  

"It's the first time I've gone through one of these spells of losses. It's tough. You try to get yourself up each week but you don't have a win to pick yourself up."

Of course, Maloney wasn't the only underperforming player dropped for today's season-ending clash.

Star halfback Shaun Johnson didn't make the bench.
 
Last week, when Johnson spoke of his desire to push for a spot in rugby Sevens at the Olympics, Maloney piped up saying 'why don't you just leave now?'.

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Johnson jibed back: "I'm doing my bit, James. Your head has been out the door for the last month."

Make of that what you will.

For a true display of heart and professionalism today, fixate your vision on the departing legend that is Micheal Luck.

If ever there was a reason to front with pride, he is it.

- Sunday News

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