Words fail Paul Gallen but captain sparks Cronulla Sharks to 24-16 win over Wests Tigers

Still got it: Sharks captain Paul Gallen was outstanding as Cronulla beat the Tigers on Sunday. Picture: John Veage
Still got it: Sharks captain Paul Gallen was outstanding as Cronulla beat the Tigers on Sunday. Picture: John Veage

Paul Gallen is a man who likes to lead by his actions.

But on Sunday afternoon the Sharks captain went against his natural behaviour and tried to spark his side with his words.

It was a failure.

That forced Gallen to go back to what he does best. Leading from the front. And leading by example.

Gallen produced a vintage performance as the Sharks fought back in the second half to down the Wests Tigers 24-16 at Shark Park.

With Cronulla trailing 10-2 at half-time on a dismal day weather wise in the shire, the former NSW captain tried to inspire his teammates at the break. 

“I was a little bit concerned at half-time, to be honest. We were down 10-2 but just the feel in the dressing room was a little bit down,” he said. 

“I tried to talk and get going but I’m not really like that, I like to do it by my actions. I did try and get a bit of spark going and it didn’t seem to work to be honest. I don’t know what was going on, we were just a bit flat today.

“We needed something and I came up with, I’m not going to say a lucky play, but I work hard every week and sometimes things go for you and sometimes they don’t. Today I got that try.”

That try turned the game. With the Sharks down by eight points eight minutes into the second half, Gallen took it upon himself to spark Cronulla’s comeback.

With the Sharks 15 metres out from the Tigers’ line and nothing seemingly on, Gallen charged at the line, carrying four defenders with him before slamming the ball down.

Just five minutes later and Gallen helped get the Sharks in front. Tigers halfback Luke Brooks put in a banana kick with his side on the attack. Gallen dropped back behind Cronulla’s line to field it on the full before holding up a pass to put Valentine Holmes through a hole.

Like he did for Queensland on Wednesday night, Holmes raced 80 metres to score under the posts and give Cronulla the lead.

Just like that. The game was changed. Gallen, the 36-year-old, was the one who changed it.

He ran for more than 200 metres and made more than 40 tackles. It was a typically unstoppable Gallen performance. 

“It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a quality player. He’s still playing good footy as you saw today,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.

“They had good field position, got a kick away. If Gal doesn’t come up with that pass and Val doesn’t get into position we’re battling off our try line again. It just goes into that arm wrestle.

“To be able to score a length of the field try in any period of the game especially when the score was like it was was crucial for us.”

Gallen, who turns 37 in August, was non-committal when asked whether he would go around again in 2019. On this form, you can see why he would. He continues to prove that age is just a number with the influence he has over his team’s performance and results of games.

The Sharks remain two points away from second place among a logjam of teams fighting for a top four spot.

“We spoke about [bouncing back from the loss to South Sydney] during the week. We needed to respond and I thought we responded accordingly,” Flanagan said.

“Give credit to the Tigers, they scrambled really hard. They’re up there in tries conceded so it was always going to be one of those games we needed to just get home.”