In some quarters he is being touted as the NRL’s ‘buy of the year’ in 2016 and few at the Sharks will dispute that rating after Maloney helped guide the team to the NRL title.
While he hardly looks like a modern day footballer, tipping the scales at just a touch over 80kgs, Maloney certainly plays like one and a quality NRL player at that.
With his running game, body on the line defence and ice cool goal kicking, Maloney played a pivotal role in the Sharks success, with a measure of his value being the fact that the bigger the game, the better he got.
Very good in week one of the finals, he was even better in the Grand Final qualifier when the Sharks smashed the Cowboys, then capped it off with a professional display under immense pressure in the premiership decider.
But as good as he is on the field, Maloney brings just as much to the team environment off it, with his relaxed demeanour helping to calm the waters around Shark Park when the tension was rising towards the back end of the season.
The incumbent NSW Origin five eighth, Maloney also won selection in the Australian Four Nations squad, a just rewards for his performances in the blue, black and white this year.
A narrow loss in round one was followed by a comprehensive victory over the Dragons in round 2.
A loss to the Sea Eagles at Brookvale was next, before the first win of a 15-match streak, 14-6 over their eventual Grand Final opponents the Storm, set the Sharks on course for the 2016 title.
It took Maloney and Chad Townsend a few weeks to find their feet as a halves combination but the Melbourne match may have been the start.
Long-suffering Sharks fans might not have recognised it at the time but Maloney’s cool head under pressure, as well as his ability to take some of the heat off his halves partner, especially against the best opposition the NRL had to offer, went a long way towards helping the Sharks claim their first NRL title.
Round four when the Sharks beat the Storm is when some of the good judges may have noticed.
He had plenty throughout a 2016 season featuring numerous highlights, but one particular magic moment stands out about all the others.
Despite the fact the Sharks were well on top in their Grand Final qualifier against the Cowboys, against a team boasting Johnathan Thurston you could never be sure.
That was until James Maloney tipped up a North Queensland pass, regathered and took off on what would be a 65 metre run for the southern try line at Allianz Stadium.
The Cowboys chased, Maloney kept motoring along and when he dived over in the corner, taking the Sharks out to unbeatable lead, the Shire celebrated along with 30,000 Cronulla fans inside the stadium.
Later after being asked at what point in the season did he think the Sharks could actually win the premiership, coach Shane Flanagan responded; “When Maloney took that intercept and scored against the Cowboys.”
Year in Review: James Maloney*
Games played 2016 - 25
Line Breaks: 10
Try Assists: 9
* Statistics via www.foxsports.com.au/nrl and Big League Magazine