James Maloney reveals key wife detail after snubbing Roosters to join Cowboys staff

The 37-year-old NRL champion will be part of the North Queensland coaching staff in 2024.

James Maloney, pictured here with wife Jessica.
James Maloney and wife Jessica. Image: Getty

James Maloney has revealed he was all-but certain to join the Sydney Roosters coaching staff until a chance meeting with Todd Payten's agent sent him to the North Queensland Cowboys. The 37-year-old had only just retired from professional rugby league when it was announced last month that he would be joining the Cowboys as an assistant coach in 2024.

But in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the two-time premiership winner revealed how Payten's agent Isaac Moses changed his mind when he thought he was heading to the Roosters. Maloney had all-but lined up a gig to join the Roosters staff, until he bumped into Moses at a chicken shop in Penrith.

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Maloney had spoken to Roosters coach Trent Robinson about taking up a part-time role, but Moses told Maloney that Payten was looking for a full-time assistant after Dean Young's departure. That sparked an awkward conversation with his wife, who had only just settled their family back in Sydney after they'd relocated to France for the past three years.

Maloney told wife Jessica that he would stay in Sydney if she didn't want to move their four children again, but she agreed and the family will relocate again - this time up north - for 2024 and 2025. Maloney won a premiership with the Roosters in 2013 and still has a relationship with Robinson and chairman Nick Politis.

James Maloney, pictured here in action for the Sydney Roosters in 2015.
James Maloney in action for the Sydney Roosters in 2015. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

But he passed up a return to his old club for a new challenge up north and a full-time role. Whether or not the Roosters are happy about Maloney's decision remains to be seen, especially given the fact that Moses didn't include them during negotiations between Joseph Suaalii and Rugby Australia earlier this year.

“I spoke to Robbo, who had a part-time role for me there,” Maloney told the SMH. “He told me if I couldn’t find a full-time role elsewhere, he had the next best thing for me at the Roosters.

“It came out of the blue the move to the Cowboys. I arrived back in the country on a Tuesday and by Thursday we had just finished organising the kids back into school out in Penrith where we were moving back to. I went to a chicken shop and bumped into Isaac Moses, who looks after Todd Payten. As I was heading out he said to me, ‘What are you doing?’, and I said, ‘I’m doing some stuff with the Roosters’, and he said, ‘Toddy is looking for an attack coach up there’.

“I had a chat with Toddy on the phone, flew up the following week, and by the Friday I had a job. I phoned Robbo when I got the Cowboys job. He said he was always happy to have a chat if I had any questions about coaching.”

James Maloney, pictured here at the 2019 NRL grand final.
James Maloney joins the lap of honour for retiring players during the 2019 NRL grand final. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

James Maloney to bring vast experience to Cowboys

Maloney said he had reached out to the Sharks, Bulldogs and Panthers about potentially working under Craig Fitzgibbon, Cameron Ciraldo or Ivan Cleary respectively. The halfback played for the Storm, Warriors, Roosters, Sharks and Panthers across a 14-year professional career that finished with him acting as captain-coach for FC Lezignan in France.

His move to the Cowboys reunites him with former Sharks teammates Chad Townsend and Valentine Holmes. Maloney won his second premiership at Cronulla in 2016 and will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to Payten's coaching staff.

“We are excited at the prospect of the new dimension James will add to our program,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said last month. “With an experienced assistant in Justin Morgan coming on board this year, we made the decision to target a younger coach with recent experience on the field to focus on our attack.

“We met with Jimmy in Townsville last week and we were impressed with how he presented and the ideas he had to improve our team. He will be an excellent sounding board for our spine, in particular our young halves in Tom Dearden, Tom Duffy and Jake Clifford.”

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