VIDEO: Maloney shows his value in Sharks victory
GIVE him the upgrade, Sharkies.
James Maloney has starred for Cronulla in its 26-12 win over South Sydney at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
After being rested following a brutal Origin campaign, the NSW playmaker was hugely missed in the Sharks' loss to Gold Coast last week.
On Friday night against the Rabbitohs, Maloney was instrumental setting up two of the Sharks' four tries as they ran out winners to give milestone man Luke Lewis a memorable 300th game and put them back into the top four.
Maloney is seeking a contract upgrade after leading the Sharks their first premiership win.
Since then he's made his Australia Test debut in last year's Four Nations and is a frontrunner to snare Johnathan Thurston's Kangaroos No. 6 jersey for the World Cup. He's also re-establishing himself in the NSW team.
With the Sharks reportedly considering a play for Cooper Cronk, club powerbrokers will no doubt be watching his form closely over the closing rounds of the season with the team headed towards another finals finish.
The Rabbitohs had a great chance to score in the opening stages of the game when Robbie Farah darted out of dummy half and passes to Sam Burgess who lost the ball.
The Sharks were then piggybacked downfield after a penalty and they made the visitors pay with Maloney putting Wade Graham over.
The Rabbitohs hit right back to level scores off the back of repeated Sharks penalties when Adam Reynolds put in a deft grubber which found a sprinting Braidon Burns.
The Sharks had plenty of possession midway through the first half, forcing a couple of goal line dropouts. The defence caved in the 22nd minute when Fa'amanu Brown burrowed over.
A 27th minute penalty goal further put the home side's lead out to 14-6 which they held at the break.
Souths narrowed the margin to two points in the 53rd minute when veteran playmaker John Sutton stepped and barged through the Sharks' defence.
Michael Maguire's men had a golden opportunity to snatch the lead iun the 69th minute when they surged downfield, but a Reynolds kick for Burns was dropped in-goal.
It was a costly error from the visitors with the seven-tackle set allowing the Sharks to power down to the other end of the field and Gerard Beale dived over to make it an eight-point game once again.
A Ricky Leutele try off a Graham grubber with two minutes to go put the result beyond doubt.
Key Rabbitoh Sam Burgess could be out for the remainder of the season after suffering a rib injury late in the game.
The Pommy powerhouse came from the field in the 73rd minute of the game after being slammed in a heavy tackle.
Channel Nine was reporting post-match Burgess could miss three to six weeks.
"We're not sure about Sam. Could be a cracked rib but we need scans," Maguire said in the press conference.