Maloney has endured a wretched season. AAP Image/Dave Hunt.
Maloney has endured a wretched season. AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

Penrith willing to let Maloney walk

THE Penrith Panthers won't stand in James Maloney's way if he wants to leave before his contract expires to sign a deal in the English Super League.

It comes as coach Ivan Cleary has dropped big-name stars Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Josh Mansour from Friday night's clash with New Zealand in a bid to save their fading finals hopes.

Campbell-Gillard has been named in the No.18 jersey on an extended Panthers bench, while Mansour has been dumped to reserve grade.

Maloney isn't off-contract until the end of the 2020 season but Panthers officials are open to the veteran five-eighth departing earlier.

The NSW Origin incumbent has previously refused to rule out leaving Penrith at the end of 2019 to finish his stellar career in England.

The prospect of Maloney joining the Super League ahead of schedule was first floated by former general manager of football, Phil Gould, at a club board meeting last year.

Gould, in conjunction with the playmaker's management, suggested it would be perfect timing for the ex-Warrior, Shark and Rooster to go to England in the last year of his contract.

Now Gould has left Penrith, the club will look to resume talks with Maloney and his management about a potential England exit.

Could Maloney’s days at Penrith be numbered? Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images.
Could Maloney’s days at Penrith be numbered? Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images.

However, the club understands, and respects, if the 32-year-old decides to honour the final season of his contract in 2020.

Question marks around Maloney's future come as the clean-out at the underperforming Panthers has officially commenced with a host of players being shopped to rival clubs.

Winger Dallin Watene-Zelenziak has been offered up to Parramatta despite being contracted until the end of 2020.

Fullback Dylan Edwards has also been linked to the North Queensland Cowboys, who are on the lookout for a long-term No.1.

Pressure is mounting on Penrith following the club's woeful 2 win and 7 losses start to the season.

The Panthers have leaked a whopping 210 points in nine rounds to place them third last defensively only in front of the Cowboys and Titans.

Josh Mansour has been dropped to reserve grade. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Josh Mansour has been dropped to reserve grade. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Caleb Aekins will also make way for Dylan Edwards to return to the NRL ranks at fullback while local junior Brian To'o will make his NRL debut on the wing in place of Mansour.

To'o, born in Westmead, has played Harold Matthews, SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and Canterbury Cup for the Panthers.

He has also represented the NSW Under 20s last season while he played for NSW Residents in last weekend's 42-22 loss to the Queensland Residents.

Despite the defeat, To'o was NSW's leading yardage maker, which is a major reason why he was selected to replace Mansour in the NRL side.

News Corp Australia

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