Time to decide Moylan-Maloney NRL battle

Scott Bailey
Penrith star James Maloney will soon face his Cronulla counterpart Matt Moylan in the NRL finals

You can't spell James Maloney's surname without the letters Moylan and now the NRL's biggest individual head-to-head battle of 2018 will finally be decided on Friday night.

Both Maloney and Matt Moylan have done their best to play down the hype of do-or-die semi-final's chief individual battle this week, but there's no easy getting away from it.

From the moment the pair inked a deal to swap teams over the off-season, the question has been asked of who would get the better of the trade deal between Penrith and Cronulla.

Numbers from Fox Sports Stats this week showed Cronulla's Moylan has outplayed Penrith's Maloney in most categories, including try-assists, linebreaks, linebreak assists, missed tackles, penalties and errors.

And when quizzed this week, even Maloney admitted that Moylan had perhaps just got the better of him in his first year at the Sharks.

"They finished above us on the table and all that, so probably Moyza." Maloney said.

"Everyone makes it out to be a bit of a me and Moyza thing, but I get along really well with Moyza.

"I think everyone is trying to look at it as a win-lose situation, but I think both sides got what they were after and I'm super happy."

None of those numbers - nor both team's positions on the ladder - will matter on Friday night at Allianz Stadium though.

Maloney is a big-game player, and his experience was clear last week when he booted a pivotal 40-20 early in the match when the Panthers were down 12-2 against the Warriors before they romped to victory.

Likewise, he took the on the bulk of responsibilities in this year's State of Origin series when partnered alongside Panthers teammate Nathan Cleary in the halves, leading NSW to a 2-1 series victory.

"He's a massive influence," Cleary said.

"We're really to have someone like him in our team at the moment.

"It's something we've missed in past finals series - that extra experience and someone who has won a grand final. And Jimmy is second to none with that."