The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Paul Gallen leads the Sharks into the history books

Paul Gallen (right), and Valentine Holmes of the Sharks celebrate their win during the NRL Grand Final between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
Expert
2nd October, 2016
20
1554 Reads

Only four days ago Paul Gallen wasn’t rated good enough to be a nominee for the Dally M captain of the year.

All the wash-up from the NRL grand final:
» PRICHARD: 13 extra seconds, but the Sharks did it
» Five talking points
» Ten best tweets from the match
» Sharks player ratings
» Storm player ratings
» Match report: Sharks’ wait over
» Re-live the match with our live blog

Raider Jarrod Croker took out the honour, from Stormer Cameron Smith, Bulldog James Graham, and the co-captains of the Cowboys – Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.

So stuff the judges.

Paul Gallen has won a whole lot more than a captaincy Dally M, he’s captain of the NRL premiers in the toughest rugby league competition in the world, ending 50 long years of waiting.

Bloody marvellous.

But it took a lot more than Gallen’s captaincy to break the drought.

Four stand out – Michael Ennis in his retirement game, Luke Lewis, winner of the coveted Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground, James Maloney with his attack and goal-kicking, and the quicksilver, Ben Barba.

Ennis is a pain in the butt to every opponent, but his dedication and passion is mighty hard to compare with anyone.

Advertisement

Lewis was non-stop all season in attack and defence, and just as big an inspiration as his skipper. Last night was his ultimate as he very nearly scored twice in sniffing distance of the chalk.

Maloney is the complete professional, he’s the one calling the shots, and he does it superbly well.

He made a couple of busts last night to prove the point, while his goal-kicking is always money in the bank.

What a pity Barba doesn’t see more of the ball. Every time he touches it, something is likely to happen.

He scored the first try of the decider by locking into the scrum from fullback. Gallen took the ball at the base and ran wide, before passing inside for Barba to touch down untouched.

Bloody brilliant thinking.

In fact it was a great game, played at a cracking pace.

The Sharks led 8-0 at the break, but should have posted far more points with so much possession – 59 per cent to be precise.

Advertisement

Only non-stop defence by the Storm kept the Sharks to just eight points, making 222 tackles to just 158, with Storm captain Cameron Smith accounting for 36 of them.

Just 8-0 was never going to be enough in such an open game, but nobody would have given the Storm the ghost of a chance to not only score first in the second half, but take the lead 12-8.

Jesse Bromwich barged over for the Storm in the 41st minute, and Will Chambers somehow managed to evade the tight Shark defence in the 63rd, and it looked as though the Sharks had blown it.

They were no longer in control, bit by bit the Storm regained their clinical structure and the Sharks were stretched.

Step up to the plate the Sharks bad lad Andrew Fifita, one mighty tough campaigner.

From five metres out, somehow Fifita kept ploughing for the line with four Stormers hanging onto him like grim death, then he managed to intricate the ball from a mass of arms and legs to touch down under the posts.

Maloney added the extras and the Sharks were back in the lead 14-12 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

For the Shire representatives, that would have been the longest 10 minutes of their collective lives – there was so much at stake.

Advertisement

But the Sharks lifted, and despite three chances of the Storm raging back, the Sharks snuffed out the dangers.

Even the last Storm play was intense with seconds left on the clock.

Treating the ball like a hot potato, in excess of 14 hands kept possession alive until the tackle was eventually completed with the siren in the background.

Then all hell broke loose. The reception from the 83,625, predominately Sharks fans, was deafening – and with every good reason.

Of the many emotional moments that followed, one will stand out for me forever.

There was the Sharks’ greatest footballer Andrew Ettingshausen who retired in 2000, tightly hugging Paul Gallen with both of them caring not that their tears were flowing like Niagara Falls.

History had been made, and it was left to Paul Gallen to have the final say after lifting the Norm Provan-Arthur Summons Trophy.

“To all the fans back in the Shire, turn the porch lights off, we are coming home with the trophy.”

Advertisement

It was bloody worth the wait.

close