DANGER MAN: Cronulla's James Maloney scores a try during last weekend's preliminary final against the Cowboys at Allianz Stadium.
DANGER MAN: Cronulla's James Maloney scores a try during last weekend's preliminary final against the Cowboys at Allianz Stadium. Cameron Spencer

Sharks pair has the killer instinct

RUGBY LEAGUE: Bush footballer James Maloney and the most travelled player in the NRL Michael Ennis are the men to lead Cronulla to a history-making grand final win over Melbourne in Sydney on Sunday.

They may not score the winning try but the chances are high one or both will figure prominently in setting up the match-winning play.

Standing in the way of the club's greatest moment in almost 50 years is the clinical Melbourne Storm and two key players - Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

The Storm has built an impressive finals record on the back of those two Queensland and Australian stars and they, like Maloney and Ennis, will have a major say in Sunday's outcome.

Cronulla's chances of breaking down Melbourne's defence lie with the running games of both Maloney and Ennis and their ability to get deep into the line and put teammates through the smallest of gaps.

Cronk has a huge opinion of Maloney and his ability to create something from nothing.

Maloney, who hails from Orange in country NSW, is an old-fashioned, instinctive player who likes to make the defence react to what he does, thus making space for players around him.

He spent some time with Melbourne and Cronk in 2009, playing four first-grade games with the Storm before stints with the Warriors and two seasons with the Roosters, during which time he won a premiership.

"James deserves a lot of credit for what he's done at the Cronulla Sharks this year. Not only that, but he's had a tremendous State of Origin campaign as well,” Cronk said.

"James must bring something special to a football team because each team that he's been a part of, he's made a grand final.

"I know he's a charismatic guy off the field but he's also a tenacious competitor, and brings a lot of calmness to that football team.”

Ennis, who will play his last game on Sunday, lost a grand final to the Storm in 2012 when he played for Canterbury, one of five NRL clubs he has represented since 2003.

It would be a fairytale end for Ennis to walk off ANZ Stadium on Sunday night as part of Cronulla's first premiership-winning side.

Sharks captain Paul Gallen said the feeling among the players was they had an opportunity to create history for the club.

"We feel we deserve to be here,” said Gallen, who has battled a back injury to play on Sunday.

He said he and the senior players had spoken at length to the other players about the opportunity ahead, now it was up to everyone to get the job done.

"You can't put old shoulders on young heads, the senior guys like myself, Luke Lewis, Mick Ennis, Chris Heighington who have drummed the message in,” he said.

"Fingers crossed we all take it on board and go out and play the game of our lives on Sunday.”

Gallen said he was looking forward to another meeting with Cameron Smith, who has come under fire for an incident with Canberra's Jarrod Croker last week and been labelled a "protected species” with referees.

The NRL, meanwhile, has overlooked Gerard Sutton for the grand final, appointing Matt Cecchin and Ben Cummings as the whistle blowers with Bernard Sutton the man in the Bunker hot seat with Luke Patten and Ashley Klein.



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