The Sharks captain courageous and spiritual leader, Paul Gallen ticked the final box in his illustrious career when he hoisted the NRL Premiership trophy following the Grand Final victory over the Melbourne Storm.
A veteran of Origin matches, winning a series as NSW skipper in 2014, Tests for Australia and a career approaching 300 NLR games, the premiership victory was the final piece to the puzzle for a man who has played all his top grade rugby league with the Cronulla club.
And for a while it appeared in perhaps wasn’t meant to be, with Gallen sidelined from the Canberra match in week one of the finals with a debilitating back injury, a problem which threatened his participation in the Sharks finals campaign.
As he does Gallen worked diligently on his recovery, was thankful for the week off following the Raiders win as he rehabilitated the injury, before getting back on the field for the Grand Final qualifying victory over the Cowboys.
Similar to previous seasons, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan always knew what he was getting from Gallen, usually in the vicinity of 200 metres gained and 30 tackles, with his experience also invaluable.
Having signed a contract extension he has a year to go, however once the curtain finally comes down on his playing career Gallen will certainly be in the conversation when the greatest-ever Sharks are discussed.
If anyone doubted there was still life in his old legs, Gallen dispelled those fears with a first half try in the Sharks victory over the Broncos back in round 9.
Lurking around the play the ball Gallen read Michael Ennis’s intention to kick, pushed forward and entered a race for the ball with Brisbane five eighth Anthony Milford.
Using his smarts as well as speed nobody thought he still had, Gallen beat Milford to the ball in touching down in the in-goal in front of delirious fans in the Monty Porter Stand at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
It was a try that made a statement to the effect that Gallen had plenty left to give the Sharks in 2016.
The moment, the one all Sharks fans will covet and always remember, wasn’t a typical Gallen hit-up, nor a desperation tackle. It wasn’t one of his four tries in 2016 or a skilful touch for a teammate to score.
The Gallen moment to savour came when the current skipper embraced fellow club legend Andrew Ettingshausen in the middle of ANZ Stadium in the aftermath to the Grand Final victory.
It was a coming together of arguably the two greatest to wear the blue, black and white in an emotional clinch that showed just how much the Grand Final victory meant to all Sharks players both past and present.
If ever a statue is struck, a mural or portrait produced, it might just be of ET and Gal coming together on Grand Final night.
He talks eloquently and often, on radio and TV, while print journalists appreciate his honesty and willingness to provide opinions on a wide range of rugby league topics.
Gallen’s quotes in 2016 were many, however one delivered on stage at the presentation of the NRL Premiership trophy stood out above all others. They were words Sharks fans savoured as the celebrations began in earnest.
“All you people back in the Shire, turn your porch lights off, we’re coming home with the trophy.”
Year in Review: Paul Gallen*
Games played 2016 - 20
Tackle Breaks: 37
Average tackles: 30
Average running metres: 175.6
* Statistics courtesy Big League Magazine