Celebrate a champion
He is the captain of NSW, has played 30 Tests for Australia, for the past five years has led the Cronulla Sharks into battle as their club skipper and on Monday night Paul Gallen reaches another memorable milestone in what has been an illustrious career.
The Sharks captain courageous will run out against the Titans for what will be his 233rd game in the blue, black and white, eclipsing the mark set by legendary fullback David Peachey and trialing only Sharks immortal Andrew Ettingshausen on the clubs’ all-time games played list.
It is a significant achievement for Gallen, with Sharks fans having the opportunity to celebrate a champion when he takes to the field on Monday night.
Making the night even more special, Ettingshausen, arguably the greatest player to represent the Sharks, not only in terms of his longevity but in relation to his leadership, skill, speed and ability, will be a dressing room guest prior to kickoff to present Gallen with his 233rd Sharks NRL jersey.
For Gallen the journey began when as a teenager he was shunned by his junior club the Parramatta Eels, made the trip across town to join the Sharks and the rest is history.
He worked his way through the lower grades, before Gallen got the call from Coach John Lang to make his NRL debut for the Sharks on June 6 in round 15 of the 2001 season.
On that occasion he was on the losing end of a lop-sided score line, the Sharks going down 36-6 to Parramatta, but unbeknownst to the majority of the 14,000-strong crowd on hand that night, a star had been born.
Gallen would go on to play just one more game in 2001, became a regular first grader in 2002 and 12 years later is still powering on.
While his games-played tally stands tall, he will never top the try-scorers list, although 51 four-pointers in 232 appearances is a reasonable haul for a back rower, but what Gallen does lead is every category, those that are measured by statisticians and some which are not, for effort, determination and will-to-win.
On Monday night at Remondis Stadium Gallen will again lead the team out of the tunnel, then as he has done in the five or more years he has captained the Sharks, will lead from the front when the whistle blows.
It would be easy to source quotes from those Gallen has played with during the past 13 years, coaches he has played under, and those he has competed against, many pages of tributes could be written. But one introduction, delivered by Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin before kickoff to a game in 2013, says it perfectly.
“He has been a tower of strength. The bigger the burden he carries, the more he gets involved in every game he plays. He is a leader in every sense of the word.”
Ettinghausen’s 328 games may be a long way in the distance and Gallen’s beat-up body most likely wont allow him to catch the Sharks immortal before the curtain comes down on his celebrated career, but there is no doubt he is an club immortal in waiting.
First things first however, starting tonight with the Titans, as he has done 232 times before, Gallen will in the thick of the action, playing hard and tough, playing to win, as Ikin so eloquently explained, playing the only way he really knows how.