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Panthers sweat on Maloney with Cleary return unlikely

Penrith are sweating on the fitness of James Maloney following the State of Origin decider with only one other recognised playmaker in Jarome Luai available for their clash with Gold Coast on Friday.

Maloney is expected to be named for the Panthers on Tuesday but faces the task of backing up for his club less than 48 hours after the interstate blockbuster.

With star halfback Nathan Cleary injured the only other player in the squad's top 30 with a halves background is Tyrone May, who has been training with the club but has been stood down from playing commitments until his court case over charges of filming women without their consent is resolved.  

Cleary has spent the past week with the Penrith rehabilitation group and is rated only an outside chance of making a return to the field after he was ruled out of Origin III contention.

"Nath's been doing a lot of rehab running and whatever he can to accelerate his ankle recovery," Panthers winger Josh Mansour told NRL.com on Monday.

"You can't leave no stone unturned, you just do whatever you can to get back for your mates. There's some quirky and methods you explore, legally of course.

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"You want to look for whatever edge you can coming back from injury even if it's by a percent here or there because it all adds up in the end.

"We don't want to rush him obviously. Last year was a physical and mental battle for him after Origin but he knows the game now and it's going to build his character and resilience.

"We've got a couple of other options if it doesn't work out and our belief is sky high at the moment that whoever comes in can do a job for us."

Penrith captain James Tamou said Maloney wouldn't be pressured into backing up after experiencing the challenge first-hand during his time playing for the Blues.

"We're hopeful but it's a tough ask," Tamou said.

"Some Friday night games after a Wednesday night game is good because you just get it out of the road and don't have too long to think about it.

"But you do everything you can to recover in that short time. In your mind you think you're all right but your body can be a bit behind the eight ball."

The Panthers are climbing the Telstra Premiership ladder after sitting in last spot just six weeks ago with three home games in a row coming up set to be a make-or-break period for the club.

"There's a good vibe but we obviously can't release too much momentum," Tamou said.

"We need to keep fixing things and hopefully keep riding the wave. Ever since we were dead last I haven't looked at the ladder. I know we're around 10th spot but we just need to keep winning."