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Paul Gallen after a Test match in 2010.

I'm a big admirer of Paul Gallen. I know he can be a polarising figure, but he has been great for rugby league.

He takes the field in his last home game for the Sharks tomorrow. He'll be retiring at the end of the season with nearly 350 games for his club and more Tests for his country (32) than State of Origin games for NSW (24). Impressive numbers in anyone's language.

Deep down I know he cares about things, has a good heart in him and a good head on his shoulders. He has always wanted to be successful along with being very competitive, very driven.

Gal made the "Queenslanders have two heads" comment when I was Maroons coach and I thank him for that ammunition. That's one of the reasons why Gal has been so great for the game – he drove a lot of the Origin rivalry and aggression.

He may have divided opinion but he was a significant contributor to all the hype around Origin.

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The important thing with Gal is that he can back up his words with his actions. He's been such an inspirational leader and tremendous player for so long.

Those competitive juices within him and that strength of character have helped him throughout his career. He's tough, he plays through injuries.

Gal has one of those robust physiques that are so well suited to our game.

He might not be all that tall but he's got great width in his body and thickness in the thighs that gives him great leg drive and makes him hard to handle.

The banner honouring Paul Gallen.
The banner honouring Paul Gallen. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Gal's size allows him to get under attackers defensively and dominate one-on-one situations. 

He has all the things you want in a No.13. Gal has brought on new dimensions at lock – something that younger players like Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Josh McGuire, Jai Arrow, Dale Finucane, and even Jason Taumalolo are now carrying on with.

Your front-rowers are taller and bigger but your 13s of the Gal variety have that big engine – they are valuable because they hold up your middle seeing as they can play 80 minutes.

The No.13 is your warrior. He is Mr Reliable every game, a player the rest of the team want to play with. 

Gal could play at prop as well because he had that toughness and ability to deal with the conditions.

He played prop nine times for NSW and his last game for Australia in the 2016 Anzac Day Test – my first as Kangaroos coach – was also in the front row. He can play at prop for 80 minutes, an extraordinary feat in the modern game. 

Sharks v Raiders - Round 24

I will never forget his contribution to what we do now around the RISE concept – Respect. Inspire. Selfless. Excellence. Gal helped instigate and drive that among the team. He spoke passionately about the Green and Gold jersey.

He is quite different from how people perceive him. He has a shyness about him, a little introverted perhaps.

That could be off-putting. Some people may misinterpret that as arrogance or off-putting from a team sense. So, in some ways, Gal has been a misinterpreted figure.

He played his junior footy with the Wentworthville Magpies in Parramatta's system. He played SG Ball with the Eels but they didn't want him.

The Cronulla Sharks gave him an opportunity that has been repaid numerous times. He hasn't looked back since making his NRL debut in 2001.

His loyalty has led to being the captain of the club and ultimately winning their first premiership in 2016.

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This year he passed Andrew Ettingshausen as the most-capped Sharks player. That is further testament to his contribution to the game. 

Through that loyalty, reputation for toughness and winning attitude, he drew players to the Sharks like Wade Graham, Michael Ennis, Luke Lewis, Andrew Fifita which led to their maiden title.

The club was smart enough to build an era around Paul Gallen – and history will say a successful one at that.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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