Paul Gallen back for Cronulla Sharks' preliminary final clash with North Queensland Cowboys

He's back: Cronulla will welcome back inspirational captain Paul Gallen for their preliminary final against the Cowboys. Picture: John Veage

He's back: Cronulla will welcome back inspirational captain Paul Gallen for their preliminary final against the Cowboys. Picture: John Veage

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has been named to return from a serious back injury for the Sharks’ preliminary final against North Queensland on Friday night.

Gallen missed Cronulla’s gutsy qualifying final win over Canberra a fortnight ago after suffering back spasms thought to be caused by fluid released from a disc related to an old surgery.

Sharks prop Sam Tagataese, who hasn’t played for five weeks, is also likely to return from a shoulder injury.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan expects them both on deck for the Allianz Stadium battle with the reigning premiers.

"Gal will be right," he said at Sharks training at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Sunday.

"He was never going to leave any stone unturned to be fit for this game.

"He was never going to miss this game, these are the games he wants to be a part of."

Cronulla have a decent recent record against the Cowboys, having won three of their last five meetings and their last two matches in Sydney.

But North Queensland will be buoyed by their epic extra-time victory over Brisbane in their elimination final last weekend and memories of the 39-0 hiding they handed Cronulla on their way to the premiership last season.

A big crowd is expected to make the trip from the shire to Moore Park for the match as Cronulla attempt to reach their first grand final since 1997.

See theleader.com.au for more previews and post game coverage on Friday night.

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