Maloney’s upgrade not Flanagan’s priority

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan will prioritise finalising the club’s 2018 NRL roster before considering any possible contract upgrades for five-eighth James Maloney.

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But he agrees with the two-time premiership winner’s claim that he deserves more than his current deal – believed to be $600,000-a-year at the most.

Flanagan takes a hands-on approach to the club’s recruitment, and has seven members of the squad named to take on Melbourne on Thursday night still off contract for next year.

Maloney is reportedly unhappy with his current deal at the Sharks – which expires in 2018 – and has been linked to a number of clubs including South Sydney.

But the Sharks coach said that wasn’t his top priority right now.

“We’re just trying to secure our roster for 2018 and then we will concentrate if players need an upgrade,” he said.

“There are probably a lot of players in my club who would like an upgrade on the back of being in a grand final.”

Maloney’s deal, signed in 2014, is well below the current market rate for dominant halves.

In comparison, Ben Hunt and Shaun Johnson are understood to have signed deals worth on or above the million-dollar mark this year.

Regardless, Flanagan doesn’t believe Maloney will be playing elsewhere in 2018.

“The way he is playing at the moment, he has got a good reason to ask (for an upgrade),” Flanagan said.

“Jimmy signed a contract a couple of years ago. If he was on the open market there is no doubt he would earn more money.

“But for me he is contracted to the club. I would like to think he is going to be here next year.”

Cronulla’s battle to re-sign a host of premiership-winning stars this year has been further complicated by uncertainty over next year’s salary cap.

Flanagan said on Wednesday the club had been working towards the lower end of projections for 2018, despite the fact they had still managed to sign St George Illawarra star Josh Dugan.

They have also re-signed the likes of Wade Graham, Valentine Holmes, Matt Prior and Chad Townsend.

Meanwhile 35-year-old Paul Gallen joined veteran Luke Lewis last month when he said he wanted to play on with the Sharks in 2018.

“We don’t check their passport when they run out on the field,” Flanagan said when asked of Gallen.

“His performances are staying up there and they are quality.

“If he’s playing good football I can’t see why he can’t run around again if he’s wanting to.”