O’Loughlin is key for Wigan, says Sharks ace

Sean O'Loughlin is preparing for his third World Club Challenge
Sean O'Loughlin is preparing for his third World Club Challenge

Cronulla stand-off James Maloney has picked out Sean O’Loughlin as the player they need to nullify in Sunday’s World Club Challenge.

O’Loughlin, 34, will lead Wigan into battle as they aim to restore some battered Super League pride.

And Australia international Maloney highlighted the loose-forward as the Warriors’ main threat to their hopes of stretching the NRL’s dominance in the World Club Challenge to a fifth successive year.

He said: “Sean O’Loughlin is a big key player for them. I remember playing against Wigan three years ago and he was one who stood out then.

“They have got a few guys with international experience and so we realise it’s going to be a tough ask.”

Maloney was in the Sydney Roosters side which toppled Wigan 34-14 in the English club’s last World Club Challenge encounter.

James Maloney playing for Australia in last year's Four Nations

James Maloney playing for Australia in last year's Four Nations

Among his team-mates that day was Frank-Paul Nuuausala, who will be lining up for the Warriors at the DW on Sunday.

“Frankie carries the ball strongly and he was very good for us at the Roosters. I’m looking forward to playing against him – and hopefully he won’t run at me too many times,” smiled Maloney, who kicked six goals in the 2014 WCC.

“Across the board we don’t know as much about their players as the guys we play against week in, week out in the NRL, so we’ve got to make sure we’re on.

“It’s obviously a little bit different playing here than to playing at home, but I understand what is coming our way.

Hopefully Nuuausala won’t run at me too many times

James Maloney

“I was here last year for the Four Nations. I’m assuming there’s going to be a really big crowd, and our blokes can experience how passionate the fans here are and how loud the get. I think they’ll buzz off it.”

O’Loughlin is preparing for his third WCC, having also lost to St George Illawarra in 2011. Wigan’s last win in the annual showdown was back in 1994.

“It’s been a long time for the club, and it’d be great to get it,” said O’Loughlin, who expects Sunday’s match to emulate a Test.

“The big thing is the constant intensity of the game, which the NRL clubs have been a bit better at, rather than the big-plays.

O'Loughlin after the 2014 WCC loss in Sydney

O'Loughlin after the 2014 WCC loss in Sydney

“If you’re soft in areas, the quality they have will bite you.

“It’ll feel like an international, rather than a Super League game.”

Wigan will host some representatives from Cronulla at a sold-out World Club Challenge dinner tonight.

Shaun Wane will name his 19-man squad tomorrow.