Paul Gallen is a player who has always polarised fans. Love him or hate him, you’ve got to be impressed with somebody who made 300 appearances for the same club. His 300th game was marred by a loss to the Brisbane Broncos and a crowd that booed whenever he touched the ball. But the amount of rival players who praised his game play and dedication shows the quality he displays for the Sharks, NSW, and the Kangaroos.
Born in Sydney, he debuted for Cronulla in 2001 against the Eels and has been there ever since. Gallen served as the Sharks’ captain for 10 years in a row and has seen 7 coaches come and go. He has also represented New South Wales City, NSW Origin side, Prime Minister’s XIII, Australia, and the NRL All-Stars. He has won the NRL Premiership as captain and won an Origin series in the same role.
Even aged 35, he is still showing his form for the Sharks, averaging around 170 metres and over 30 tackles a game. He has been a powerhouse for the Sharks and will undoubtedly be a key component in next year’s team as well –especially given the possible absence of James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Jack Bird next season.
A consistent performer
Gallen represents a quality that can be easily overlooked in the NRL – consistency. He is a one-club man who delivers every week. He has always believed that to be a ‘good’ player, you have to play well every week, and stay in form year after year.
Gallen is not cherished by everyone and has some dark parts to his sporting career, including a drugs suspension that almost crippled the Sharks in 2014. However, only two years later they were holding the first silverware the club had seen in 50 years. Gallen has been rock solid and dependable for all the club and representative coaches that’ve relied on him.
The respect he’s earned
Aaron Woods called Gallen a ‘great and inspirational leader’ during his time as the NSW captain. Even his competitors have respect for his abilities. James Graham, who has faced him many times, says; “He’s so competitive, to still be playing the way he is, at his age, just speaks volumes about the way he trains. He is consistent in the contest. To make 300 games is a big occasion but with the intensity he plays at that makes it that extra bit special.”
There were only 25 other players who’d reached over 300 games for a single club at the end of 2016 and Gallen has now joined their ranks. He has the second highest number of games for a one-club player at the Sharks and has a good chance of overtaking Cronulla legend Andrew Ettingshausen’s tally of 328 next season. While the Sharks would have liked to honour his 300th game with a win, it wasn’t to be but who knows how many appearances he’ll have made by the time he hands his boots up?
Justin Hodges also had high praise for Gallen; “Whether people agree with him or not, as a player who played against him, I always admired him for what he said and what he stood up for,” said Hodges. “He stood up for the game and the players. He makes sure the game is in a better place.”
Whether or not you agree with his rough tactics and controversial behaviour, you can’t deny the consistency and quality that he brings to the teams he represents.
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