Gallen encourages NRL participation
There's not a lot Paul Gallen hasn't done in rugby league, and now the Cronulla Sharks and New South Wales skipper is urging the rest of the nation to become involved in the game he loves.
The 259 NRL game veteran was on hand to promote the Play NRL Round at NSW State Parliament House on Wednesday afternoon along with former stars Anthony Minichiello, Matt King and Brett Kimmorley, as well as a number of politicians including the NSW Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres, and the Shadow Minister Lynda Voltz.
Fifteen years after making his first-grade debut for the Sharks, Gallen still remembers what life was like as a junior footy player in Sydney's western suburbs.
"I remember Roberta Street Oval was where I used to play back in Greystanes for the Greystanes Bulldogs, where I played from when I was six to 10 years old," he said.
"I loved footy that much that I went down and played for Wentworthville Magpies on a Sunday, so I played on both Saturday and Sunday until I was about 11 or 12 years old. They're my best memories. I won plenty of grand finals and made plenty of friends back then so they were all good times."
The 34-year-old representative lock-forward believes the positives associated with being involved in rugby league are endless, and most importantly, aren't limited to the stars of the NRL.
"Rugby league just gives so much. It gives you friends, first of all, but it gives individuals a lot of self-confidence to do whatever they want to do," Gallen said.
"It doesn't matter whether you're six or 60 or whether you can play or you can't play, go down and get involved in your local club, give back to the community, be a volunteer, work at the canteen at the local footy. Basically get involved in teaching kids a healthy and happy lifestyle."
While his teammates are like brothers on the field, Gallen's real family has played a big role in his rugby league upbringing.
"I still remember mum and dad packing up our whole family – I have four brothers and sisters – so there were five of us and we all used to go to the footy on the weekend. We used to go and watch Parramatta sometimes at Parramatta Stadium. It's something the whole family can get involved in," the NSW skipper said.
That sense of family has stuck strong with Gallen, who relishes the opportunity to now share the field with his wife and children after home games.
"They love that. That's all they want to do when they come to the footy. I suppose the good thing about it is in a way the result doesn't matter to them. They just want to get out there and have fun and see their dad and run around on the big field.
"It gets a bit tough sometimes if we do have a loss, but at the end of the day, it's all about the family. They get to run around with dad and they absolutely love it.
"He [Gallen's son] played an under 8s game on the weekend and he's only four, so he didn't know too much what he was doing, but he absolutely loves the game.
"He loves getting dressed in his jerseys. Every team I've played for, Australia, NSW, the Sharks and the All Stars, he's got all the jerseys, the shorts and loves his footy boots. He wears them every day. He'll definitely play footy."