Dad the conqueror … Paul Gallen with daughter Charly after NSW’s victory in Origin II in Sydney.Before this year’s opening State of Origin match in Melbourne, Paul Gallen called his team together and mumbled a stream of the hardest words he had ever forced from his mouth as a team’s captain, an admission he had let his men down.
Gallen struggled in the countdown to the series kick-off with a knee injury that required constant attention, and as the Blues prepared for this Wednesday’s series decider in Brisbane he told The Sun-Herald about his uncomfortable moment of clarity.
”I struggled in game one with my knee,” Gallen said from the team’s camp at Coogee. ”I’m a pretty emotional guy and I wear my heart on my sleeve a bit and, yeah, I was really struggling. I was embarrassed and I was struggling at training … I found game one really hard. I put so much emphasis and focus on getting my preparation for the game right.
”But it meant when I was injured
I neglected the team a bit. It’s a fine line; got to get ready to play and have to lead. So I got them together after a training session before the game and told them how I felt.”
Gallen described the response from his players to his outpouring of raw honesty as ”humbling”.
”They were really good about it,” he said. ”They slapped me on the back and said it was OK. But it’s hard. You’re the captain and people look up to you, you’re the leader and to not be out there with them [at training] is tough.”
The Cronulla Sharks’ man of mettle had, however, earned their respect long ago. His confession he had put some of his day-to-day duties as skipper on hold to ensure he was with the team when it counted was universally viewed as a comfort rather than a criticism.
”When he runs out he turns ‘on’,” said Origin rookie James Tamou, who was convinced by Gallen to forgo his native New Zealand to declare himself a true Blue. ”You can see he wants the best out of everyone, he wants to win. You can see that. He puts his heart on his sleeve and everything on the line. His professionalism impresses me. He’s always doing extras in the gym and out on the field. I see in Paul what I need to do to get to where I want to be.”
Back-rower Greg Bird said Gallen had won his teammates’ confidence, and their trust, the hard way.
”He leads by example, it’s what you want,” Bird said. ”He doesn’t expect for you to do anything he wouldn’t.”
Gallen is braced to try to ”stop the rot”, as the NSW players have described their mission. It’s the game where Gallen’s men can end Queensland’s dominance, now running at six consecutive series wins.
”We have a good bunch of guys. Everyone enjoys each other’s company when we’re not training and when we train we train hard. There’s some good intensity; it’s been good.”
Gallen stressed that playing for NSW was not all beer and skittles.
”You know what I expect?” he said, his brow furrowing. ”I expect 100 per cent in preparation because I think if you prepare well, you play well. That’s my attitude, my belief. … You do everything possible leading into the game. I love everyone having a good time but preparation is important. It is everything.”
Steve Roach, a powerhouse of a NSW Origin prop in the blood ‘n’ thunder 1980s, is one of coach Ricky Stuart’s assistants, and he described Gallen as a skipper he would have proudly followed into battle.
”His attitude is, ‘Give me the ball and follow,”’ Roach said. ”The end result is the boys would see him do all the work and think, ‘I’d better get on this, too; can’t let Gal do it all’.”
In the Blues’ dramatic game two victory in Sydney, hooker Robbie Farah wrote his own chapter in Origin’s history book with 63 tackles and more than 100 touches of the ball. His effort came during his now deceased mother’s fight to try to watch him at the match, but from a purely football perspective, Gallen seemed at a loss as to why reporters were so focused on a player doing the job he was selected to do.
”I know [the effort] was well spoken about, but at the end of the day that’s what Robbie has to do,” Gallen said. ”I know it’s marvelling to you guys, but Robbie would’ve known as our only hooker that was what he was there for. He’ll probably make another 60 tackles on Wednesday night and it’s good to know he can handle it.”
Gallen says he does not find leading by example difficult.
”I’m probably lucky my style of leadership is to lead by my actions, and I’m fortunate what I’ve done in the past, and what I’m doing now reflects that and the boys respect it.
I don’t talk a hell of a lot. I think that means when I do talk they think they’d better listen. It’s the way I like it, not talking for the sake of it.
”If I think someone will get something out of a comment then I’ll say something. If I think it is beneficial for the team I’ll say something. At the end of the day it’s about the result on the field, and I’m just a part of that aim … I’m part of the team but the figurehead of it. There has been a few guys who have led this year; Birdy [Greg Bird] has definitely been one. Ricky [Stuart] challenged everyone … he embarrassed me a bit and I do get embarrassed when he singles me out … and James [Tamou] has really stood up. I think they’ve all been terrific. There hasn’t been a bad player.”
Todd Carney – five-eighth and Gallen’s teammate at Cronulla and for the Blues – summed up the skipper’s influence on the team perfectly: ”He is the voice behind us, but it’s Gal’s actions that say it all.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.