Gallen stays grounded ahead of maiden grand final
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen could have been excused for walking into Friday night's press conference with a big smile on his face.
After all, his side had just qualified for its first grand final in a unified competition since 1978 courtesy of a 32-20 win over defending premiers the North Queensland Cowboys.
But instead, Gallen graced the media with a business-as-usual attitude, telling reporters that the Sharks were simply on the path that they deserved to be on.
"I'm pretty composed at the moment," he said after his side secured a spot in next week's Telstra Premiership decider.
"I just think we're where we should be and where we want to be. We've worked really hard in the pre-season and we had a goal to finish top four, then it turned into wanting to finish top two, and then we played the last game to win the minor premiership.
"We were beaten there obviously, but we're just where we think we should be, to be honest. Now it's up to us staying composed this week and sticking to our plan next week."
Gallen has experienced just about all there is in the game, but now, in his 16th season in the Shire, the 35-year-old can tick 'grand finalist' off the bucket list.
It's been a long wait for him – and the club as a whole – to get to the big dance, with the Sharks having only reached grand finals in 1973, 1978 and the Super League decider in 1997.
Nearing the end of his career, Gallen reminded the club's future stars how rare these opportunities are, and encouraged them to take full advantage of what's in front of them.
"The only message I can give to these young boys like Val (Valentine Holmes) and Birdy (Jack Bird) and blokes like (Sosaia) Feki is that I signed with this club because they were minor premiers and involved in grand-final qualifiers in 2001," he said.
"I played in 2002, and when you're 19 or 20 years old and you get that, you think it's going to happen every year.
"We all know the history of the club and what's happened to us the past 10 or 15 years, and you don't get too many chances at it, so this is our chance now."
Gallen also paid tribute to the 36,717 fans at Allianz Stadium – the bulk of them Sharks supporters – for sticking by the club through the good times and the bad over the years.
"The buzz around the club today – we actually had to leave a bit earlier because there were so many cars and buses there, and it'll probably be double next week to be honest!," he said.
"There'll be 80,000 next week at ANZ so hopefully we can do the job for them.
"I'm just really happy for them. They've supported us for a long time and I think we've only been in three grand finals ever so it's great recognition for them to be able to support us the way they have.
"They've always turned out for us – this year in particular when we went on that big winning streak. They were always there for home and away games."
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has had plenty of experience in grand finals as an assistant, but now that he's reached the decider as a head coach, his desire has intensified.
He credited his side's dominant first half for Friday night's win, but admitted there were some nervy moments in the box as he watched the Cowboys repeatedly repel his team's attacking raids.
"We're there now, which is great, but I want to win it now," he said.
"Whilst we didn't come up with points, we were attacking their line and I think it was at one stage 60-40 possession and it was still nil-all at the 20-minute mark. That worried me because I know how good the Cowboys are.
"Sometimes when you dominate field position and all of a sudden they turn you away and turn you away and go up the other end and get points, so that concerned me a little bit.
"But we stayed strong and we turned them away when they got field position in that first half and in the end probably the last couple of games for the Cowboys took a bit of a steam out of them and we took it out of them in that first 30 minutes."
Game on. Data off.
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