Inside Word: Gallen risk worth it

I agree with Sharks coach Shane Flanagan’s decision to play captain Paul Gallen this Saturday against the Titans, even if it means they risk losing him for the rest of the season if he re-injures his calf muscle. I'm sure Gal wouldn’t have it any other way either.

His calf injury is not 100 per cent, but unfortunately for the Sharks, they don’t have the luxury of "next week" if they lose to the Titans on Saturday at Toyota Stadium.

The Titans may be last on the ladder, but you can’t take any team for granted - and with the Sharks sitting in 11th position on 18 points, they are mathematically a chance to make the finals if they win their remaining five matches. 

Gal would want to play as much as coach Flanagan would want him to play. As a senior player you realise your chances of playing finals footy are slipping away from you. If your team is still in there with a chance, no matter how slim, you will do anything to try to make it.

Once you make the semi-finals anything can happen. It would be massive for Cronulla to make the eight and then go on to win the competition, and I'm sure Flanagan is focused on finishing as high up the ladder as possible. He said at the start of the season their goal was to make the semis and that's what he's trying to achieve.

Definitely playing him with a calf injury is a risk, but it's one they need to take. Ideally you would prefer to err on the side of caution and give it another week beyond when you think it's right, but Cronulla don’t have another week. If he re-injures it he will be limited as to what he can do for the rest of the game, and then he may be out for another 4-6 weeks.

When you are dealing with senior players, they know when they get through a game or not with an injury. At this age (and Gal is 30 next week) you are rarely 100 per cent. Gal is one of those players who can play with some pain.

Gal just needs a little bit of luck and to manage his injury well. He would be better off starting the match rather than sitting on the bench getting cold. He may as well just go out there and rip in and see what happens. I think he will get through.

Every club has different circumstances right now with regard to when they bring back injured players. 

Canberra are no chance of the finals so it is unlikely they will bring injured star Terry Campese back even though he is training with the team; while South Sydney are considering bringing captain Roy Asotasi  back a week early if the Rabbitohs are still in the finals chase. I agree with that. You have to have your best players on the field if you can in these situations.

The Cowboys' situation is different again. They're in third place and have incredibly won three of their last four matches without co-captain Johnathan Thurston.

Cowboys coach Neil Henry has publicly stated that he won’t rush Thurston back for the match against the Broncos next week if he is not 100 per cent - which is in stark contrast to the Sharks’ situation.

It may have been a different scenario for Henry if the Cowboys had of lost all of those matches while Thurston was on the sideline. They can’t win the comp without him, but they can sneak into the top four or six without him. By being able to give him an extra week of recovery he will be coming back fresh and still get a few games under his belt before the finals.

The scenario for Flanagan and the Sharks is much different. Every game they play now is like a grand final and they can’t afford not to have Gallen on the field. He means that much to the team. This game on Saturday will now make or break their season goal of finishing in the eight.