Clock ticking for Gallen title tilt
In the wake of his announcement that 2016 will be his State of Origin swansong former Sharks teammate Luke Douglas believes Paul Gallen's motivation to lead Cronulla to a premiership is now stronger than ever.
Gallen and Douglas were teammates for six years at the Sharks before Douglas headed north to the Gold Coast, returning on Sunday with the Titans to try and steal two points from Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Gallen's decision to step down from representative football after 2016 and his frank admission that this could even be his final season in the NRL puts additional pressure on his desire to bring the Provan-Summons trophy back to the Shire before he retires.
"I suppose it does put a little bit of pressure on him," said Douglas of Gallen's 16th shot at the title.
"He's probably only got a few more years there so he's going to want to get the team pushing up towards the top four come finals time so all these games are pretty important.
"He's only one game back from injury so he's going to be better for the run. He'll probably be starting on the weekend so he'll be up for a real big one."
For the entirety of Douglas's tenure at Cronulla, Gallen was the senior figure leading from the front and seemingly single-handedly taking on the responsibility of his team's fortunes on his shoulders.
In recent years the likes of Luke Lewis, Michael Ennis and Wade Graham have relieved Gallen of some of that weight and made Cronulla an even more dangerous proposition according to Douglas.
"He's got some experienced guys around him and they're showing from the start of their season that they can win without him," said Douglas, who played 146 games straight for the Sharks.
"Those experienced guys add a lot more confidence to the young guys playing with them and that's been showing.
"I was there for six years with him and he's definitely matured and is one of those guys that does every little thing possible to get himself right for the game.
"He's always the one doing extras, he's doing to stuff on his own, going to wrestling training and all that stuff by himself out of normal Sharks training so he's a true professional.
"I'm sure he'll be ready come Sunday."
Sunday marks the sixth occasion that Douglas has faced his former club, his two wins coming from the Titans' past two visits to Shark Park.
Gallen, Wade Graham and Sam Tagataese are the only remaining Sharks from Douglas's last game for the Sharks in 2011 but he says that each meeting with the club where he made his NRL debut is a special one.
"You always want to do your best coming up against your old club," Douglas said.
"You'd be lying if you said you didn't but it's not about me, we're coming up against a pretty in-form Sharks outfit so we've got to be on our toes."