He may be in representative retirement, but Paul Gallen reckons his form would still warrant inclusion in the State of Origin opener as he jokingly said he plans to holiday in Queensland during the representative period.
Gallen and NSW certainty Andrew Fifita helped the Sharks wear down a tiring Johnathan Thurston-less Cowboys at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday night as both ran for almost 200 metres, according to Champion Data.
Gallen made a representative swansong in the final City-Country clash – which descended into an almost farce given the lack of players available – and said he thought he would be capable of joining the likes of Fifita, James Maloney, Wade Graham and Jack Bird in sky blue if he hadn’t hung up the boots after last year’s series loss.
“I think I’m playing good enough,” Gallen said. “I’m not going to say I regret [representative retirement] because I made a commitment to the club, but I think [I deserve to be there if available].
“There are a lot of good young guys there though. I’m back to being a NSW fan. I think if we win the first game we’ll win the series.”
Gallen also gave the nod to Sharks flyer Valentine Holmes to tip out Brisbane’s Corey Oates for the vacant Queensland wing spot as Cronulla prepare to lose up to five players to the interstate series.
“He’s an Australian player, he’s playing well and he brings the ball back hard,” Gallen said.
Fifita inspired a Sharks comeback as they came from 14 points down at half-time to chalk up just their second win at home this season – the other was a one-point cliffhanger against the cellar-dwelling Knights – as Maloney’s boot proved the difference in the 18-14 win.
Gallen described Fifita as “the best forward in the competition” with increased consistency after he set up Chad Townsend’s try.
“That’s what Andrew can do,” Flanagan said. “He showed some really sharp feet in the first half and his second stint was probably his best stint. Overall he changed the game for us and it was a fantastic effort.
“The frustrating thing for me is to start better and not have to go into those slogs. They were awful in the second half then we were awful in the first half.”
North Queensland coach Paul Green lamented his side’s last-tackle options in the second half after Michael Morgan – who could fill Thurston’s No.6 Maroons jumper for should his teammate fail to recover from a shoulder injury – sparked the first-half lead.
“It’s one of your fundamentals of footy,” Green said. “We were in a position to win that game, but we put ourselves under too much pressure. You really need to make sure you get out of your end and they were coming to get us. All in all I was really proud of the effort we showed … but we still put ourselves under too much pressure.”