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Gallen woes could help Sharks: Flanagan

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan believes Paul Gallen's injury-plagued season could translate into the secret ingredient that catapults the Sharks into genuine NRL premiership contenders.
Gallen woes could help Sharks: Flanagan
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, July 5 AAP - Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan believes Paul Gallen's injury-plagued season could translate into the secret ingredient that catapults the Sharks into genuine NRL premiership contenders.

For so long the workhorse which the Sharks have lent on to carry them into a finals berth, Cronulla have this year been forced to get by largely without their inspirational skipper due to a litany of injuries and representative commitments.

Currently nursing a torn ligament in his foot, the best case scenario is for Gallen to return to the Sharks line-up for the round 19 encounter against Sydney Roosters, three days after State of Origin III.

Flanagan just wants the Sharks - sixth heading into Friday night's home game against Wests Tigers - to keep their head above water until their captain returns, believing a fresh Gallen could make all the difference come September.

"The way I see it, after this injury and he gets through Origin III, Gal will be fresh mentally because he hasn't played a lot of football for us," Flanagan told AAP.

"He's only played eight out of 16 games, he's only played half a season for us.

"It's going to be a really good opportunity for Gal to be really fresh and lead us into the semis."

Never was this more evident than last year, when both Gallen and playmaker Todd Carney - who had also endured an Origin campaign - limped into the finals.

Gallen was little more than a punching bag for fired-up Canberra second-rower Josh Papalli - the Sharks leader with the will but not the way to return serve as Cronulla meekly bowed out of the finals.

It's why Flanagan went in search of some more class to put alongside Gallen and Carney - with the likes of Penrith duo Luke Lewis and Michael Gordon recruited to boost a star-deprived roster.

And it is also why Flanagan is happy to take some pain in June and July by having his stars engaged with Origin if it translates to success in the big end of season games.

"We're heading in the right direction in the number of rep players we have," Flanagan said,

"The more rep players you have, unfortunately you've got to deal with it during that rep period.

"It makes it all the more important you get the points on the board before and after that rep period."


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