Maloney elects to fight tripping charge

Panthers playmaker James Maloney has entered a plea of not guilty to a tripping charge arising from Saturday's defeat to the Bulldogs.

Maloney will contest the grade one charge at an NRL Judiciary hearing on Tuesday night.

An early guilty plea would have seen Maloney suspended for Friday's crucial game against Cronulla Sharks and he faces the same outcome should he be found guilty at the hearing.

In any case the Panthers will be boosted by the return of Viliame Kikau for the Cronulla clash, with the Fijian international having served his two-match ban for a shoulder charge.