Written by Stuart McLennan
Recruitment Director of reigning French Elite 1 premiers FC Lezignan XIII, Aurélien Cologni, appreciates he has a special addition to the squad for the upcoming season.
“James is James,” Cologni told Everything Rugby League acknowledging Maloney’s high standing in the game.
“We signed him because we looked for a skipper with strong leadership. It’s so amazing to sign a player with his standing for the club and (for the) young boys. I’m sure that Lezignan spirit will be very good for him. He’s an outstanding player but with a lot of humility.”
Maloney, who played 279 games across the NRL/Super League and three internationals for Australia, told media he was looking for an opportunity to stay in the south of France for the next couple of years while dialling down his playing commitment. The strong semi-professional Elite 1 championship appears to be the perfect solution.
Last season Lezignan recruited another well credentialed veteran in former Tonga and New Zealand international, Sam Moa, who previously had stints with Cronulla, Hull, Sydney Roosters and Catalans. Cologni admits the big prop was a major factor in their success last season.
“Sam was amazing in his attitude and spirit. He was an example during the season because he is very professional and he enjoys training hard and shows a good mentality.
“His high level experience was very precious in the way to win the Grand Final. I ve got a big respect for him and confidence without limit.
The coach revealed what it means for the Lezignan-Corbieres area to win the prestigious Championship title
“Winning the comp is amazing at Lezignan because the passion in this town is incredible for the club. Every player from Lezignan has got a friend or a family member who played or worked for the feuceuleu.
“Fans are very enthusiastic with the club and they are very proud of the ‘FCL 13’. We have won the Grand Final and after that we have improved the kids numbers to join the academy.
Cologni. who was Head Coach of the French national team between 2016-2020 and has led Lezignan to a number of titles, is aware the season which starts on the weekend will be tougher for his side as reigning champions with opposition sides looking to take them down.
“You know the most difficult thing is to keep respect about what we achieved the season before. It’s exciting to be chased, that’s why we have to work harder than last year and accept our standing as champions. All club members know that we need to keep going with efforts together if we want to give ourselves an opportunity to come back in the Grand Final.
“Our toughest opponents will be us first because we have to find a good mix between new players and the rest of the group. There is a new coach with some new players and we have to build again a strong mentality to perform.
“In front, Carcassonne, Limoux, Catalans, Avignon and Villeneuve will be fantastic opposition. But we want to focus on what we have to do and which attitude we need to play our best and make our fans proud.”
The French Elite 1 Championship will commence this weekend with nine clubs participating. The Lezignan vs St Gaudens match will start at 15:30 (local time) on 17 October. The game will be shown live on the Lezignan club’s Facebook page
Albi v Toulouse
Avignon v Carcassonne
Lezignan v St Gaudens
Limoux v St Esteve