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Not even the surprise return of inspirational skipper Paul Gallen could prevent the Sharks from slumping to their sixth loss in seven games, going down in a close 24-18 affair against the Roosters on Saturday night.

The NSW Origin captain came through unscathed after punching out a full 80-minute shift in his first game since suffering an ankle injury against the Titans in Round 1.

But while the team improved on last week's lifeless defeat to Manly, the Sharks remain anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder almost a third of the way into the season.

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"It just came out of the blue Thursday. I was no chance earlier in the week and then I was just doing my rehab running on Thursday, I felt pretty good in the morning," Gallen said.

"I said to the trainers, 'I'm going to play' and they just laughed at me. I said, 'No, I'm serious'. So we come back in the afternoon and did some defence and some tackling and pulled up alright.

"And then I did the captain's run yesterday (Friday) and I pulled up alright. As I said to Sharpy [coach Peter Sharp], if I'm right to play, I'll play. That's the position I'm in at the club, and it's just unfortunate we didn't get the win tonight.

"It was a good effort, but sometimes effort's not enough and we need to win games."

Gallen's comeback will be welcome news for NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley, who will also be pleased with the return to form of halfback Mitchell Pearce and to a lesser extend, five-eighth James Maloney.

"I saw Loz on Monday and I was down in the dumps and I said I'm nowhere near playing, and then six days later I'm playing," Gallen said.

"I felt really good the first half. I've hardly run for five weeks and fitness caught up with me a bit in the second half. Twinged my ankle a couple of times in the second half but all in all I pulled up OK."

An upset against the defending premiers loomed when Cronulla winger Sosaia Feki completed a runaway try in the 67th minute that levelled the game at 18-all.

But while they went toe-to-toe with the World Club Champions for most of the match, the Sharks eventually succumbed to a Roosters outfit who found their attacking mojo in a free-flowing game.

"It was a quick game. It was a good game. As I said, we had a lot of effort," Gallen said.

"But it's just a shame it hurts. When you put that much effort in and you lose, it hurts a fair bit. And all the boys are hurting in there. We're a better side and a better bunch of blokes than where we're at the moment.

"We're starting to get a lot of knockers, which is fair enough when you've only won one game out of seven, that's going to happen. But it's only the blokes in that room that can turn it around and it has to start next week."

Sharp said he expected injured duo Beau Ryan (neck) and Anthony Tupou (knee) to make their first appearances for the season in next Saturday night's home game against the Panthers, while Test second-rower Luke Lewis (shoulder) is in line for a return in a fortnight. 

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