Francis Maloney, then of Dewsbury, spoke to Thirteen in 2005 about his time in the game. He is now retired and won a lifetime achievement award at the inaugural Albert Goldthorpe ceremony in 2008 for his outstanding service to the sport.
Position: Stand Off/Centre
Date of Birth: 26/05/1973
Previous Clubs: Leeds, Featherstone, Warrington, Oldham, Castleford (two spells), Wakefield, Salford.
Francis Maloney joined Ryan Sheridan, Darren Rogers and Warren Jowitt at Super League signings at the Rams at the start of the season, signalling the clubs intentions for an assault of National League One. Despite an early embarrassment to amateurs Wath Brow Hornets in the Challenge Cup, a play-off place has been comfortably achieved with former England and Great Britain Under 21 international Maloney at the hub of the side’s progress.
How have you enjoyed your first season at the Rams?
I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. I had a couple of offers to stay in Super League, but looking at the bigger picture, I’m 32 now and I think that coming to Dewsbury was the best move for me all round. I’ve built a good relationship with Ryan Sheridan and have been allowed to play my own game and have really enjoyed doing so.
Has it been a lot easier than Super League?
Surprisingly it hasn’t been. A lot of the youngsters out there are really good players, and I’m sure that a lot of them could play at the top level given the chance. The pace of the games may be a lot slower, but it’s still a very physical and aggressive league, and the young lads are still very fast! The main difference is how the teams tire towards the end which is the difference from being full time and part time and spending maybe four hours a week together as opposed to four hours a day.
Was the Wath Brow game was a shock to the system
That was probably the lowest point in my career losing to an amateur side. It could have ruined our season but instead it was the kick up the backside we needed, and brought us together to kick on.
Given the level of expectation around the four Super League signings, is the play-off place a disappointment?
Deep down I suppose it is because we thought that we could definitely go straight up, but you have to look at how the side did last year and it’s be a massive improvement all round. Things don’t happen overnight, and you have to be on your game for the full 18 matches. We slipped up at home to Sheffield and just had one of them days against York.
How do you rate your chances of promotion?
Workington Town have been playing well but I think we have to be confident. It’s going to be tough against Batley, the National League One side though. That’s a very tough league and if we go up it will be even tougher next year with the number of full-time teams.
Who are the best players you’ve come up against in National League Two?
There’s a lot of good kids out there at this level. Two who spring to mind are George Rayner at Hunslet who’s got pace to burn, and you can say the same about Wayne English at Swinton.
Who’s impressed you at the Rams?
Chris Hall has been a stand out for me this year. He’s got pace, power and is a big hitter. Alex Bretherton and Lee Preece are good too.
What’s been the biggest difference in the side’s turnaround this year?
I think we’ve just added a lot more experience to the side this year and that’s always a big help for the younger guys. We’ve been going really well in training and by winning more games there’s a buzz which has made us a more confident side.
Who has been the biggest influence on you?
It would have to be my dad John. He played for Hull, Rochdale, York and Dewsbury and encouraged and coached me. After I left Leeds to join Featherstone I really had my eyes opened by Steve Martin who was coach there. Some of the stuff he was doing was years ahead of what other coaches were doing at the time, even years later. He made me so much more confident in myself. Although we didn’t see eye to eye all the time, Stuart Raper was great for my confidence too.
Who were your heroes growing up?
I always watched a lot of Australian videos when I was growing up and loved watching Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling. That Wembley final in 1985 when they both played was outstanding. I met Sterling the other year which was unbelievable because he was such a hero to me.
Who do you respect most in the game today?
A lot of players are good at various things and you have to respect them for their individual skills but one man who has the lot is Andrew Johns which is very rare in a single player. Some half backs have real pace, kicking ability, vision or creativity but Johns can do the lot and his defence is great too. There’s nothing he can’t do.
What have been your career highlights?
Playing in any final, like the Old Trafford win for Featherstone over Workington, playing for England and also Yorkshire.
Who are the best players you’ve played with?
Jonathan Davies at Warrington and Martin Offiah spring to mind. Davies took me aside and taught me the spiral bomb which I pass onto kids today and I was at Salford and when we signed Offiah I just couldn’t believe that I was playing centre to him! Others are Adrian Vowles at Cas who was awesome the year he won the Man of Steel, Brendan Tuuta at Featherstone and Mick Hancock at Salford who, when I saw him in the NRL thought, “he’s one angry man” but he was a lovely fella.
What about the best you’ve played against?
Paul Newlove. I played with him too at Featherstone and he was the complete centre. He was quick, had really good hands and was so strong. It’s funny because I used to train with him and he could hardly lift anything in the gym but it took five to bring him down on the pitch!
What are your plans for the future?
I’ll still be at Dewsbury in 2006 and want to keep playing for as long as I can. I still have ambitions in the game, I want to win things with Dewsbury and I wanted to kick 100 goals this year but injury has stalled that. I’d like to give coaching a go too because I’ve got a lot of experience to pass on. I’ve been doing development in schools this year which I’ve enjoyed.
Have you got any regrets?
I suppose leaving Castleford the first time, although it wasn’t my decision. I want to go because it was the best time of my career and the team was the best I’ve played in. Stuart Raper had us playing great attacking football, and the entire backline ran in double figures of tries that year.