Roosters five-eighth James Maloney’s chances of retaining his NSW Origin jumper have taken a dive after suffering a shoulder injury late in their 20-point win over the Dragons on Anzac Day.
In a blow for both club and state, Maloney, having issued a reminder of his credentials to Laurie Daley with a fine showing, was escorted up the tunnel in the final 10 minutes, and Blues centre Michael Jennings also left the field clutching his leg.
Maloney, who walked off clutching his left shoulder after being hit heavily after taking a kick, said he had been told by medical staff he had a suspected injury to his AC joint. It could sideline him for up to six weeks – which would rule him out of Origin I at least – but Maloney said he did not know for how long he would be sidelined ‘‘I don’t know, I’ve never done it before,’’ he said. ‘‘But she’s raised up and the doc’s talking grade two.’’
The injuries took serious gloss off a return to form for last year’s premiers, and coach Trent Robinson will not be the only one sweating on further updates on their fitness. Maloney and Jennings had both been under pressure to keep their spots in the NSW side for the Origin opener on May 28, but the No.6 in particular had helped his cause on Friday.
The incumbent Blues five-eighth had not enjoyed the start to the season that he might have liked after helping the tri-colours to a premiership and featuring in all three Origin matches last year.
But they say better late than never, and with an impressive display in the Roosters’ 34-14 win, the 27-year-old from Orange ensured that Daley and Blues selection adviser Bob Fulton would have his name on their minds.
Settling on a partner for halfback Mitchell Pearce before the first game of the interstate series looms as the major quandary for Daley as he bids to mastermind a first NSW series win in nine years.
The Roosters’ modest start to their title defence hadn’t helped Maloney’s cause, and Sunday week’s City-Country match in Dubbo was likely to have him facing off against another contender for the job, Canterbury’s Josh Reynolds, while South Sydney captain John Sutton is also in the mix for a long-awaited Origin debut.
But his place in the Origin trial looks to have gone out the window with Maloney’s shoulder problem. He will await the results of scans but he could be out for as long as six weeks. The NSW team for Origin I will be picked in three weeks.
Before the injury the playmaker’s chances of retaining his spot had been been lifted by a series of important and eye-catching plays in the annual Anzac Day showdown, not least the sublime cut-out pass that sent veteran Anthony Minichiello over in the right-hand corner just before half-time.
It was the kind of ball Daley, a former champion five-eighth, would have been mighty proud of. He returned later on to send Boyd Cordner, a potential partner in crime at NSW level, over for the match-clinching try, dispelling any Dragons’ aspirations of mounting a late comeback.