Sharks' Gallen to join 300-game NRL club
Paul Gallen of the Sharks celebrates at full-time of the Round 11 NRL match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney, Thursday, May 18, 2017. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)
If there's one lesson from Paul Gallen's 299 NRL games that he wants to pass on to his younger teammates, it's this: Make the most of the good times while you can.
The Sharks skipper speaks from personal experience, having soared the heights of the finals in the first two seasons of his career in 2001-02.
But from there it was tough going, reaching the post-season on just two more occasions in the following nine campaigns.
"You came into first grade as a 20-year-old thinking that's going to happen every year and all of a sudden it's 2003 and we know the history of the club from then onwards," Gallen recalled.
"There's been some pretty tough times."
That's why, despite being the oldest active player in the league, Gallen isn't ready to let go, signing a second-straight one-year deal last month.
The extra season could see him surpass Andrew Ettingshausen's record number of appearances for the Sharks.
"I'd have to play every game over the next two years to get there. At my age with my body, that'd be a pretty big ask," Gallen said.
"I'd probably be in and around that mark, but that's not a driving factor or goal of mine. Three hundred is going to be a big honour to play and to play it at the one club."
That decision could hinge on how long the Cronulla's premiership window remains open, with the Sharks aiming to become the first team in a unified competition to go back-to-back in over 20 years.
That's why his message for the next generation is simple.
"When you get the opportunity in a good side, you've got to make the most of it. That's the message I'm delivering to these guys at the moment," Gallen said.
"We've got an opportunity to do something special. We've got a good side at a club like ours, we go through these stages where you've got to make the most of it. And this year is one of them."
Not only will Gallen become just the 29th player to reach the triple-figure milestone, but he also becomes just the 12th to achieve the feat at the one club.
"That's been very important for me, for my family. There was times throughout my career where I had opportunities to go to stronger clubs at the time for a lot more money," he said.
"My dad was, not the deciding factor, but a major influence in my decision to remain loyal. That's one of my traits and something I live by - my loyalty.
"I've showed that at this club and it's something when I retire I'll be very proud of."
© AAP 2017