Maloney out to leave legacy ahead of Panthers exit

James Maloney is leaving the Penrith Panthers and the NRL at the end of the season and hopes to have left a lasting legacy on every club he's played at. 

Maloney has inked a three-year deal with Super League club Catalans Dragons, and will move to the south of France at the end of the year.

The 33-year-old still had another year to run on his deal with Penrith, however, the club gave him its blessing to explore an option overseas and officially announced the switch on Wednesday.

Penrith were more than happy to keep Maloney at the club if he wanted to stay, making room in the salary cap for 2020 after releasing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to the Bulldogs and Waqa Blake to Parramatta.

However, the veteran playmaker, who has led NSW to back-to-back Origin series wins over the past two years, wanted to take his wife and four children overseas and enjoy a change of lifestyle.

Maloney said to play in France with the Catalan Dragons was always his preferred option than to be based in Northern England.

He had some interest from the Leeds Rhinos but a phone call from Steve McNamara during Penrith's awful start to the season where they lost six on the trot was where the seed was planted. 

"It all started when we were in that rut, I never read too much into it but Mac (McNamara) rang me and said what about next year?" Maloney said. 

"The one thing was I never wanted to leave Penrith in a hole. That was one of the things I spoke to Ivan about when we were on the losing run, I told him I couldn't walk away if the season went to shit. 

"I thought that would be hard to jump out and abort but he said you can't base it around that. 

"I've always prided myself on leaving an imprint on where I've been and leave it in a better state than when I get there.

"We're in a different position now and things have turned so hopefully we go out on a high.

"They're in a good position, a lot of young kids here and it's exciting for someone like Jarome Luai."

Maloney's NRL career spans five clubs, almost 250 games, three grand finals and two NRL premierships - the 2013 title with the Roosters and Cronulla's maiden triumph three years later.

He said not even the back-to-back Origin triumphs with NSW kept him interested in possibly seeing out the final year of his current deal.

"I've always loved Origin but you don't play it for the money," Maloney said.

"You can't keep playing it forever, hopefully the body will be that tough easier over there. I knew it was the right time because when Mac rang me I was excited about it so that told me you're ready to go.

"I've been in contact with him since the Roosters days and when he first got the job he text me saying to come over with him. I always thought the opportunity would be there for me.

"They came to the party pretty early on and I knew we'd get to where we needed to."

The Panthers will celebrate his achievements at their final home game of the regular season on September 8.

Maloney will line up at five-eighth on Sunday against Canberra at Panthers Stadium.