‘I’m more concerned with Penrith than NSW’
James Maloney insists his mind isn't on his NSW State of Origin jersey as he and Nathan Cleary attempt to turn Penrith's ailing NRL season around.
The incumbent Blues halves pairing have endured a difficult start to 2019, only beginning to click into gear in the past two losses to Gold Coast and Cronulla.
Even Blues coach Brad Fittler earlier this month questioned if the balance was right between the pair, or if they'd ever been a good combination.
Maloney has been the Panthers' toughest critic this week, lashing them for taking soft options in their losses, but insisted improvements had been made in his on-field relationship with Cleary.
"We're working on things. There are things we need to do better and there are things we do alright, it's just a work in progress," Maloney said.
"Everyone is going to have opinions on it and Freddie (Fittler) is a well-respected opinion and someone who is probably a pretty important opinion, considering we're both from NSW."
The pair's early-season worries have come as Sydney Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary enjoys career-best form, assisting 11 tries in the opening six rounds.
It leaves Maloney as one of the few fit NSW players under pressure to keep their jersey ahead of the June 5 opener at Suncorp Stadium.
"I'm more concerned about what's going on with Penrith than there (with NSW)," Maloney said.
"If we get that fixed up a lot of things will come off the back of it.
"If you're not playing well here you may as well forget about the stuff that comes after it."
Maloney looked more comfortable in Thursday's 24-20 loss to the Sharks after switching back to the left edge from the right.
Coach Ivan Cleary had swapped Maloney and Cleary to opposite sides in pre-season.
"I think a lot has been made about the changes," Maloney said.
"It doesn't bother me either way. It was a call that got made, it was probably just trying to work out the combination with edges who have different styles of play.
"I've moved back and will continue to work with the blokes I have got around me now."