Paul Gallen used his final speech as Cronulla captain after Saturday night’s 28-16 loss to Manly to implore the club’s brigade of young talent to maintain the “Sharks Way” that he and Greg Bird helped introduce more than a decade ago.
Gallen, who bowed out after 347 Telstra Premiership matches following Cronulla’s elimination from the finals series, told his team-mates in the dressing room at Lottoland that the Sharks needed to maintain the toughness and grittiness that had defined the club for most of his career.
“We talk about the ‘Sharks Way’ and the ‘Sharks Way’ was on the back of me and Greg Bird a long time ago, and that was part of our DNA for a long time,” Gallen said.
“I feel like my last 12 months I probably haven’t been where I have been in the past, not only in the game but at training as well, and maybe we have let that slip.
“I spoke about that to the boys after the game and said we have got to get that back. Going forward it will be interesting to see what happens if this playing group can stick solid together and train hard and work hard and remain just as consistent. I hope they can.”
Match: Sea Eagles v Sharks
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Sharks coach John Morris, who was thrust into the job in February after the NRL cancelled Shane Flanagan’s registration, said he was disappointed with the way the team had succumbed to the Sea Eagles in a defeat that ended Gallen’s 19-year career.
“I feel pretty sad about that,” Morris said. “I said sorry to him, he deserved better than that for just what he has given this club and the legacy he leaves this club.
“We are all better people for knowing Paul Gallen and having played with Paul Gallen, and I am certainly going to be a better coach for having been able to coach Paul Gallen.
“Just his leadership and he is the ultimate warrior, the ultimate competitor, professional in everything he does so we are certainly going to miss him on the field.
“I just hope that the young boys can take a piece of Paul Gallen and keep that in their game because he started that sort of physical, tough, gritty way. Gal started all of that and hopefully he leaves that on in this new era with all these young guys coming through.”
Morris said injuries that sidelined Wade Graham, Matt Moylan, Shaun Johnson and some of the club’s other stars for long periods this season had led to inconsistent performances and he also had to deal with salary cap problems.
In addition, the Sharks lost five games in which they scored more tries than the opposition.
“If we nail a few of those goals we finish in the top four and I am not sitting here today in an elimination final,” Morris said.
“I said to the boys then that they have got to remember this feeling because this is a missed opportunity. We ended up getting our best team back on the park at the right time but we just didn’t fulfil our potential.”
After an impressive win over Wests Tigers to claim seventh spot last weekend, the Sharks lacked the energy to match Manly and trailed 18-0 midway through the first half.
“It’s a shame that in finals footy we could get out-enthused but we got out-muscled as well physically through the middle and totally out-played,” Morris said.
Gallen said: “There has been no consistency in our game all year and that was reflected in that game. There is a part of me that is relieved it is over and a part of me that is upset about our year and what could have been”.