Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan believes skipper Paul Gallen is in the best form he's been in for years after the evergreen lock forward put in another star showing in Monday night's 13-10 win over the Cowboys.
Gallen had arguably his best game of the season, running for 200 metres for the first time since Round 8, making 41 tackles with no misses and producing three offloads in 68 minutes against the 2015 premiers.
"I think 'Gal's' form this year has probably been as equal to any year over the last four or five years. I think he's been outstanding," Flanagan said after Monday night's game.
"The biggest thing for me with Gal – and I know he's sitting here next to me – his game is better now than it was a couple of years ago.
"We relied on Gal a lot three or four years ago to get the 200 metres, make the 40 tackles, but we relied on him to create something as well. Now he's just one of 17 that needs to go out there and play his role."
Gallen announced earlier this year that 2016 would be his final State of Origin campaign, but it remains unclear what his intentions are in terms of his NRL future.
Teammate Wade Graham told NRL.com last month he thought Gallen should play on in 2017, and it appears his coach agrees with that assessment.
While the man himself joked in Monday's post-match press conference that he would play on for another two or three seasons, Flanagan said the parties would wait until the representative period was over before they finalised any new deal.
"He'll go another year, but let's just get Origin over and done with," Flanagan said.
"Gal knows where the club stands with him. He's comfortable with it and we're comfortable with it so once Origin is over we'll get all that stuff sorted out."
Gallen hasn't been the only in-form Shark with the club now on a 10-game winning streak – their best run since 2002 – following the three-point win on Monday night.
Flanagan said he was under no illusions about where his side sits at the moment, and although they are equal first through the opening 14 rounds, he knows the job is far from done.
"I know what works and I know what we need to do during the week. There won't be blokes cutting corners or thinking that they've achieved anything," Flanagan said.
"We could get to a semi-final and go bang, bang out. I'm here to make sure we're in good shape come semi-finals.
"We won't be taking our foot of the pedal. We'll be working really hard all year because you don't get these chances too often."