On paper, Paul Gallen’s Suncorp Stadium record is so bad his Cronulla coach John Morris joked that the veteran lock was lucky to be picked for the NRL Magic Round opener.
But Morris was sure glad he had Gallen on the paddock after the Sharks skipper inspired injury-hit Cronulla’s 26-18 win over Gold Coast in what looms as his Suncorp Stadium swansong.
Much was made of Gallen’s nightmare run at the Brisbane venue before the Titans clash – and no wonder.
Considered public enemy No.1 in Queensland, former NSW skipper Gallen had savoured just one win for Cronulla in nine games, last enjoying victory back in 2014.
And the former Blues and Test forward had claimed only four wins in 23 games across all formats at Suncorp Stadium.
But Gallen had the last laugh in what looks set to be his final game at the ground, scoring the match-winning try before potting over the conversion.
Just as he did in his NSW days, Gallen revelled in the role of villain at The Cauldron by cheekily raising his finger to his mouth to silence the pro-Titans crowd after kicking his rare goal.
In the end, Gallen ran 207m, pulled off 29 tackles, three tackle busts and a line break to help Cronulla overcome the loss of props Andrew Fifita (hamstring) and Matt Prior (neck/shoulder) by the 20th minute.
“I was thinking should I even play this bloke with those sorts of numbers,” Morris laughed, citing Gallen’s woeful Suncorp record.
“But I knew I had to have him play that kind of game and typical Gal he got the job done when we needed him to.
“It was a huge effort by Gal. What a way to go out at Suncorp Stadium for the big fella.”
Morris also dipped his hat to halfback Chad Townsend who set up two tries as the Sharks backed up their last round 20-18 boilover against Melbourne to push their record to 5-4.
Morris kept his fingers crossed that Fifita and Prior would be available for their next round clash against Manly, along with Matt Moylan (hamstring).
The Sharks also have Wade Graham (knee), Shaun Johnson (hamstring) and Aaron Woods (foot) on the sidelines.
“We came into the game with a lot of talent on the sidelines. We are kind of getting used to playing without them but I still didn’t think I would lose both of my starting front rowers (by 20th minute),” Morris said.
“But they showed some real heart. They just keep finding a way. They have belief in each other.”