Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney, an archetypal dressing room larrikin and New Zealand Warriors' fan favourite maintained a straight face ahead of tomorrow's showdown against his old club at Eden Park.
The Warriors performance during their NRL season-opening excursion to Parramatta last weekend gave him plenty of scope to poke fun at his former teammates but Maloney erred on the side of caution - perhaps because his new club also flopped on their opening night.
A roster reinforced by Sonny Bill Williams, NSW State of Origin centre Michael Jennings and Maloney were well beaten by neighbours South Sydney and although the 18-point defeat was mild compared to the thrashing the Warriors sustained three days later, it was still a disappointing benchmark for one of the Premiership favourites.
Maloney's reluctance to publicly incite the Warriors - or at least state the obvious after their record losing streak extended to a nine - is no doubt linked to the footballer's honour code, and a sense of loyalty to a club that developed a fringe first grader to near Origin selection in 2012.
"I think they were a bit off," was as critical as Maloney would get about an opponent that was swamped seven tries to two by the current holders of the wooden spoon in round one.
Maloney signed off his 75-match career at Mt Smart as the Warriors rounded out a dismal 2012 campaign when the losing sequence stood at eight and although nothing seems to have changed on the basis of a 40-10 loss to the Eels, the 26-year-old disagreed.
"They won't be the same side this week, we won't be taking too much notice of that," he claimed.
"I'm sure they'll be a tough assignment, it's their first home game of the season, they'll be raring to go and I'm sure they'll turn it around."
Maloney might have an extensive knowledge of the Warriors key players after debuting for the club in 2010 but he denied providing new Roosters coach Trent Robinson with any specific insights.
"I haven't spoken too much about it with him. We're just focusing on what we can fix."
Discipline and defence contributed to a dismal start to Matthew Elliott's reign as head coach - those facets also counted against the Roosters as 30 missed tackles and a 9-4 penalty count gifted the Rabbitohs momentum after Maloney crossed in the third minute at Allianz Stadium.
His debut for the Roosters was always going to be overshadowed by Williams' injection off the interchange bench and although the former All Black was unable to change the course of the game Maloney was confident the cross-code phenomenon was getting to grips with the second phase of his league career.
"He's going really good. He's still finding his feet.
"The collision is something he's saying he's got to improve on. He has to get used to the feel of it again but it will happen in time," Maloney said.
Williams' tendency to tackle low - a by-product of his time in union - enabled Rabbitohs players to keep the ball alive last Thursday and dominate the offload count but his technique will be modified to wrap up possession - albeit without his trademark shoulder charge.
Maloney, meanwhile, is also engaged in an acclimatisation process in the halves with Mitchell Pearce - a task mirrored at the Warriors by Shaun Johnson and the Australian's replacement Thomas Leuluai.
Pearce and Maloney might were close to teaming up for NSW last year until the Warriors crashed to the Roosters and Canberra in successive weeks before Origin I and Todd Carney got the nod at five-eighth.
"The combination is going good at the moment," Maloney said.
"Hopefully we can develop on what we've started and build it every game."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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