One of the worst kept secrets in rugby league was finally confirmed this afternoon with veteran Panthers playmaker James Maloney announcing he’ll depart the NRL at season’s end to take up a three-year offer with French club Catalans.
The 33-year-old two-time premiership winner still had one year remaining on his contract with the Panthers but was granted an early release to secure the lucrative opportunity.
Speaking with the media, Maloney said he’s excited to have his future finalised and is looking forward to playing overseas.
“It was always a goal of mine to play in the Super League and living in France was the preferred option,” he said.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity and I’m very grateful to Penrith for allowing me to take up the deal over there. I’m excited to finish the season well.”
Maloney and his wife Jess will relocate their young family from Penrith to the south of France in the off-season. He said the chance to live and play overseas was too good to refuse.
“I’m not getting any younger and when the opportunity arose, it was too hard to knock back,” Maloney said.
“I’m 33 now and footy doesn’t last forever. The timing was right and Jess and the kids are all really excited about the move.
“We’ve always said we’d be silly not to take the opportunity to be able to travel and play in the Super League. The lifestyle in France is a bit more family friendly than the north of England but it’s something we’ve always planned and wanted to do.”
Maloney revealed he had received a phone call from Catalans coach Steve McNamara recently, to talk about his future endeavours. Maloney said he was open and honest with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary throughout the whole process.
“I spoke to Ivan the very next day after Steve called me,” he said.
“Ivan said you can’t go on forever and if the opportunity comes it may not be there in 12 months’ time. He said he couldn’t possibly ask me to turn it down.
“I’ve got a fair bit of history with Ivan and it was easy to be up front and open about the whole process.”
While Maloney would want the ultimate fairytale finish – a third NRL Premiership – he knows there’s plenty of work to do in the meantime.
“That would be the ultimate goal but we are a long way from that at the moment,” he said.
“This announcement probably gives me a really steely focus for the remainder of this year knowing that it is going to be my last.”
Penrith will celebrate Maloney’s decorated career at the final home game of the regular season on Sunday, September 8.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.