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Paul Gallen at the launch of his book 'Heart and Soul'

Who is going to be the player the fans love to hate now Paul Gallen has retired?

And was it fair Gallen seemed to be the magnet attracting the iron filings of people's disgruntled views of rugby league?

After all he was the captain when NSW stopped the Queensland eight-year run in 2014. And he was the skipper who delivered the Sharks their maiden premiership after 50 years and three previous grand final losses.

But he was also the highest-profile player in ASADA's 2013 investigation of illegal supplements taken by Sharks players, and he was in strife for a foul-mouthed tirade against NRL head office … and he was forced to stand down as Sharks captain in 2009 for a racist jibe at Dragons player Mickey Paea, which he apologised for doing.

Among that rubble there were some gems – the delightful quip about Queenslanders having two heads. It reinvigorated interest in State of Origin games, especially those played at Suncorp Stadium.

So perhaps I have answered my own question. The good bits of Paul Gallen are intermingled with some bad ones – maybe a better description is "interesting choices".

Gallen thanks fans and club post match

One thing is certain, over 19 years of watching him bash himself up against a brick wall he always gave you great quotes, good insight – along with making you want to run a hot bath and have a good soak.

He gives plenty of perspective on some of the down times in his autobiography Heart and Soul  (Allen & Unwin $34.99), written in tandem with NewsCorp journalist David Riccio and released last week.

Initially timed for a post-2016 premiership release, Riccio spent nearly four years researching, writing and then waiting to print it because the big fella kept extending his career.

It gave Gallen more time to make a few more enemies.

"Because he pulls no punches. And that can get people offside when people are almost too honest," Riccio told when asked to explain the 'Love Island' style of popularity – you either hate his show or love it.

"That's just the way Gal is built. He had a pretty tough upbringing and faced a lot of challenges early on in his life, where he couldn't just fluff his way through.

"He's had to work for absolutely everything. So when people question some things, he takes it personally and then speaks his mind about it.

"Origin has played a major factor in polarising opinion because that is what State of Origin is. 

"There's a lot of Wally Lewis about Gal in the way 'The King' was absolutely despised by people in NSW.  I think Gal is one of those people that, in time, even Queenslanders will learn to like."

So let's ask 'The King'.

"He didn't really have any concerns about what people thought and we're similar in that respect. Being 'liked' was the last thing on our minds when we went out to play, especially at Origin level," Lewis told

Paul Gallen raises the 2014 Origin shield.
Paul Gallen raises the 2014 Origin shield. ©NRL Photos

"To be honest I couldn't give a rats what people thought about me when I pulled on the Queensland jersey, or any jersey. I was there to win that game – give it my full commitment. I'm sure Paul is the same."

Lewis knows well what being the villain is like. When they played 'Advance Australia Fair' ahead of the 1984 Ashes Test against Great Britain at the SCG, the crowd was singing 'Wally's a Wanker'.

"For me there was no appeal in that … but I'm sure Paul and I would have an identical reply when asked if that put us of our games: 'No it did not'.

"And while that might be a reason why Paul was disliked, it is also the reason I liked watching him so much. His performance was all about what happened on the field. What was said or happened outside of those boundaries was of no concern."

Paul Gallen slots the field goal. We repeat. Paul Gallen slots the field goal.

Lewis did concede he used the NSW hatred for him as an elixir.

"I can remember that if I wasn't totally switched on for a game, that only lasted until I made it onto the field. As soon as the crowd started to spray me, 'Fatty' [Paul] Vautin always used to say to me: 'Are you listening to this mob? Mate, make sure you give them the right response'."

It's something teammates of Cameron Smith have probably employed over the years. Is he the next rugby league 'villain' even though he's two years retired from representative games?

Smith is set to go around again in 2020 and seems to divide opinion as much as he carves up opposition defences from dummy-half.

And there's another hint right there. The big-occasion players, who can also boast having significant input into their team's victories, are the ones some fans come after.

Call it tall poppy, or just green with envy… Gallen copped it; so does Smith; and so did players like Willie Mason, Justin Hodges, and even Sam Burgess.

State of Mind

As far as Gallen is concerned, he's hoping whether you love him or hate him, read his book before you dig your heels in too deep.

"This book will give a different view. There's obviously people that have a view or an opinion of me already that don't know me," he said.

"Maybe this book will change that a little bit … make me look more human in some's people's eyes.

"I'm not too concerned if it does, or it doesn't. I know the amount of friends and family that I have and the people closest to me – they  are the ones who matter."

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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