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‘The bigger the game, the better he plays’: Yeo full of praise for Maloney

Five weeks ago, after a demoralising 20 point loss at home to the Warriors, the Penrith Panthers were showered in boos from their own fans, frustrated and boiling over after witnessing week after of vapid footy.

From the players perspective, message received.

Since then the Panthers have been on a tear, winning four from four and knocking off premiership contenders Souths and the Roosters and removing themselves from wooden spoon contention.

In a quirk of the schedule, Penrith faces the Warriors again but must cross the ditch to do so on this occasion, an unenviable away trip although one which can have the effect of galvanizing teams.

“It’ll be good to get away with one another, and with a few days off it’s good to come back and reunite with the boys,” Panthers back-rower Isaah Yeo explains to David Morrow and Mathew Thompson.

“It’s a good little trip away, the coaches can get a bit of a camp feel into the team and I think that can only be good,”

If Penrith are to continue with their winning ways they must discover how to do so without halfback Nathan Cleary, who succumbed to an ankle injury just before halftime in Sunday’s State of Origin clash.

Yeo says Cleary is the type of player with a diamond-cut focus on rehab which should speed up recovery.

“[Cleary] was pretty disappointed, it wasn’t as bad as he first thought which he thought would be the case, it wasn’t as sore as it was during and straight after the game and there was no surgery required,

“It’s obviously disappointing for him, up to four weeks he could miss, but he does a tremendous job with his rehab, he’s a bit OCD about it so he’ll give himself every chance to get back earlier and hopefully help us out and be back for New South Wales in Game III,” he said.

While one of Penrith’s Origin halves is in the sick bay, their other Origin half has found what is close to his best form and adds credence to the claim that James Maloney is the prototypical big game player.

“He’s the one bloke who doesn’t really feel pressure and he just performs on the big stage, he’s done that throughout his career, he’s taken the Warriors to a Grand Final, won competitions with the Roosters and the Sharks, won the State of Origin series last year, the bigger the game, the better he plays,

“You could see how happy he was being recalled to the side and after his past month’s games, it was well deserved,” Yeo said.

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