Paul Gallen is turning on his likeable side

TONY DURKINDESPITE the fact he used the large head of Nate Myles as a punching bag in Origin One last year, Paul Gallen has been much easier to like recently.

In the past couple of years Gallen has played out of his skin - like a man possessed actually. He has been as industrious as any forward in the game, and if a Dally M ironman award existed, he would have won it hands down for three successive seasons.

And irrespective of what sentiments we might hold over the Sharks and their involvement in the drawn-out peptides issue, had it not been for Gallen and his strong leadership on and off the field, the Cronulla club may well have imploded. Within 12 months the coach has been stood down twice, two new chief executives have been at the helm and football staff personnel have come and gone at regular intervals.

But through all this Gallen has been like a rock, and his leadership - at least to those on the outside - has been outstanding.

Like so many before him, Gallen has become a more responsible person with age. Marriage and a family have no doubt given him a different perspective - and just as well because he went through a period where he was a very grubby and disliked conveyance on the field.

But unless my imagination is playing tricks on me, the Sharks skipper has changed up another gear of late. His actions are those of a visionary.

Judging by recent events, Gallen is either considering an early retirement from the game or has been spooked by the on-going ASADA inquiry. His conduct, or activities, is akin to a man very seriously mulling over a change in careers, forced or otherwise.

While most of the other World Cup-winning NRL players stayed as far away from their clubs and the media spotlight as they could during November and December, Gallen seemed to be front and centre. His initial appointment after the World Cup was with a surgeon for a clean-up on a dicky elbow.

Currently preparing for his first professional fight - in the ring - on February 19, Gallen has also advised Sharks coaching staff he wants to play in the Auckland Nines the weekend prior. And all being well he will line-up for them the weekend after his fight in their final pre-season trial.

The burning question is why the packed pre-season program? For instance, his Queensland Origin counterpart Cameron Smith - two years Gallen's junior - returns to training today, will more than likely only play one trial match and is long odds to figure in the Auckland Nines.

Could Gallen - as some are suggesting - be covering his bases just in case ASADA calls again and he suffers a similar fate to his suspended footy coach?



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