Tamou wants finals fling with co-coach Maloney

Panthers skipper James Tamou has no shortage of reasons to want to beat the Roosters on Saturday.

In his first season as captain, he wants to repay the club. And the fans.

For all the kids he's seen graduate into first-graders this year to earn a taste of finals footy as rookies.

For himself, not having missed a September campaign in a decade, dating back to when he was a rookie himself in North Queensland in 2010.

And he wants to do it for his old mate Jimmy Maloney, who departs the NRL once Penrith's campaign finishes up.

Tamou and Maloney first suited up together as NSW Origin teammates in 2013 and have been through plenty since, including the past two seasons together at the Panthers.

"He's done a lot for me, whether he realises it or not," Tamou told NRL.com of his burning desire to help Maloney finish his NRL career on the right note.

"You want to do it for him because he's someone who puts his body on the line week in, week out."

Tamou will cherish the times he got to share the field with Maloney, who he said brings a rare combination of larrikinism, competitiveness and professionalism.

"I played Origin with him [in 2013] and just from then on [we've been close]," Tamou said.

"I've seen how much of a larrikin he is but a leader when it counts. He's always been thereabouts during my career.

"Some of the things he points out in a game are pretty unorthodox, what the normal eye wouldn't see and he pulls it up. Just different aspects of a game, looking from another angle.

"He's good for a bit of a pressure release, he's always up for a laugh and carrying on so he's always good in that aspect."

It's not just James Tamou who will be sorry to see the Maloney clan leave Sydney for the south of France at season's end; the pair's sons Brooklyn Tamou and Ethan Maloney play together at the local Glenmore Park Brumbies in a side Tamou coaches as often as his NRL commitments allow.

"I had the pleasure of coaching his young one in footy this year and he's exactly the same [with his competitiveness]," Tamou said.

"If I wasn't coaching he was doing the coaching, little Ethan Maloney. It's unfortunate they'll have to head off but hopefully we'll meet up with them one way or another."

A slightly older set of kids – the seven 2019 debutants named to run out for Penrith against the Roosters on Saturday – are also giving Tamou plenty of motivation as the club hunts an unlikely upset over the premiers.

"For the young boys to come through, they've done a massive job and I want them to experience that, finals footy is a whole other ballgame," Tamou said.

"They all deserved [their debuts] and when they got that jersey and took the field they showed they did. It shows the future is pretty bright but we want it to happen now. We've got a lot to prove with everything that's happened throughout the year."

Penrith Panthers playmaker James Maloney.
Penrith Panthers playmaker James Maloney. ©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

It was around the point coach Ivan Cleary started blooding rookies that the club went on its mid-season winning run and Tamou said the infectious energy they brought reinvigorated the side.

"It started with Liam Martin and Bizza (Brian To'o), we've had a few debutants throughout the year and the energy they bring, you're witnessing a kid live his dream," Tamou said.

"You watch and go 'wow', I'm seeing this unfold in front of me. To be a part of that, you get this extra energy. For them to be out on the field representing their family and everything, because they tell you what it means to them, it gives you something else."

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