Cronulla have re-signed captain Paul Gallen on a one-year deal for 2016 in a move that will allow him to be available for representative selection next year and guarantees him a three-year post-playing career at the club in an ambassador role.
Speculation over Gallen's playing future has dragged on throughout 2015 as a serious glute injury badly restricted his ability to turn out on the field for Cronulla, but it was the finer deals of the ambassadorship that were the reason for the delay in confirming his contract extension, according to Gallen and Sharks CEO Lyall Gorman.
"The NRL contract had been done at the start of the season, we were just working on the ambassador role and a few other things that took a little bit longer," Gallen said.
Gorman paid tribute to the wonderful service Gallen has given the club since his 2001 debut, across 251 NRL matches – over 100 of them as captain.
"Obviously this is a great day for our club today, one that's been a while in the making," Gorman said.
"It's a really exciting day for our club to announce the extension of Paul for another 12 months in his playing career for our club. I think it's fair to say in the modern era of football, one club players are extremely rare."
In addition to Gallen's 21 Origins for NSW – including last year's series victory – and 31 Tests for his country, the one thing missing is an elusive premiership.
"Probably the only thing from the mantelpiece missing is a premiership for our club and that's been a major focus for both of us in these last couple of months," he added.
"We're really excited. I think it's fair to say Paul is an icon of the game, not just our club. He's behind 'ET' [Andrew Ettingshausen, who played 324 games for Cronulla] only in number of games for our club and there's no doubt he will go down in the annals of history as one of the greats."
Gorman said the deal allows Gallen to box professionally within a certain window in the off-season with no restrictions placed around whether he can be eligible for representative football.
"That's a decision that Paul and I both agree should be his decision over time and I respect that fully," he said.
"[The] ambassador role with our club which will allow him to engage with our community work, in the evolution of the work we're doing with young people in our community and also work with our corporate partners."
Gallen said the decision to only sign a one-year extension was mutual and would allow for the negotiation of an additional year if both club and player wish in 12 months' time.
Gallen he never contemplated signing a deal longer than one year.
"It never even came into negotiation to be honest. I wouldn't mind going to the English Super League for a season but I'll see how I am in 12 months time and decide what my future is then," he said.
Of his worrying injury history, that has seen him line up for Cronulla in 16, 16, nine and 10 (so far) NRL matches in 2012, 2013, 2014 and this year, Gallen said while injuries are part of the game he is hoping for better luck in the future and hopes to play every game possible.
"You look at the games that I've played and how I've played them – bar Corey Parker I don't think there's a player in the league who's able to do what me and Corey do most weeks, play 80 minutes in the middle of the field and make the number of tackles and number of runs that we do," he said.
"As long as my body holds up there's no reason I can't keep going. I've had a little bit of bad luck, syndesmosis in Round 1 last year, a glute injury this year which no one has ever seen before so that's a little bit unlucky but hopefully things like that don't happen again.
"I want to play every game I can. Injuries are part of the game; I'll play every game that I possibly can."
Of his Origin hopes for next year, Gallen said he felt it should be his decision rather than the club's but added he is no guarantee of being selected after NSW's 52-6 drubbing in the 2015 decider.
"If I'm fit and I'm playing well enough then I definitely want to play but that was one thing that I said to Lyall, we were arguing a couple of weeks ago over something we don't even know is going to happen," Gallen said.
"We were obviously beaten by a pretty large margin and the team may change next year. I just thought it should be my decision that I should be able to play or that I put myself in the position to play and now it's up to [NSW coach] Laurie Daley, if he thinks I'm the best player for the spot then I'll be there, if not then I can accept that he doesn't think I'm the best player for the spot, not that the club didn't want me to play."