NSW skipper Paul Gallen faces a nervous 24 hours with a knee injury and possible suspension threatening his involvement in the State of Origin series opener following a dramatic 34-28 NRL loss to South Sydney on Monday night.
As if the sight of a Queensland star Greg Inglis scoring a brilliant hat-trick for the Rabbitohs wasn’t enough to ensure a sleepless night for NSW coach Ricky Stuart, Gallen’s shocking evening out would have done the trick.
He is booked in for scans early Tuesday morning after hobbling from the field just before the hour mark – his Origin hopes now in the balance.
“I just went to take off and something clicked in my knee,” Gallen said.
“It’s not too bad, I’m walking around alright now, it’s definitely not my ACL which is good – just check and see how the scan is tomorrow.
“They think posterior cruciate at worst.
“I’ve never had it happen before – it was a bit scary.”
Even if he overcomes that hurdle, Gallen faces another after being put on report for kneeing Dave Taylor in the fourth minute – though that seemed the least of his concerns.
“I didn’t even know why it was put on report. He had hold of my leg,” said Gallen – one of three players along with Matt King and Josh Starling to be put on report.
“I thought it was a bit of a joke some of those things being put on report out there tonight.”
Already without certain selections Kurt Gidley, Danny Buderus and Michael Jennings due to injury, the loss of his inspirational captain Gallen for the May 23 match could be the setback from which the Blues fail to recover.
The one bright spot for NSW would have been the performance of likely five-eighth Todd Carney – who scored one breathtaking solo try from a scrum and played a leading role in three others.
But his heroics were no match for Inglis, who almost single-handedly stopped Cronulla’s winning streak at six in his most dominant display since being shifted to the No.1 jumper.
His hat-trick – which started with a powerful fifth minute effort when he charged through a host of defenders from short range – was just the start of it.
He also set up another for Nathan Merritt – who scored a double to open his 2012 account – while two try-saving tackles in defence completed a standout all-around game.
“That’s (the involvement) you want from your fullback and he’s working hard at that,” Souths coach Michael Maguire said.
“We’ve spoken to him about the improvement he’s still got in his game so we’re looking forward to that too.
“Once Greg found his feet I knew if we got Greg the ball he could so special things which he’s done all his career.”
Added Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan:
“If they don’t have their fullback (Inglis), we win.
“The tries he comes up with and the plays he comes up with. We knew where they were coming but it’s hard to handle.
“I thought it was a great battle (with Carney) and I thought he was great tonight, Todd.”