BY CURTIS WOODWARD
The game is almost theirs, the seconds are disappearing from the clock. Cronulla are up by two points. Queensland’s most hated man, Paul Gallen, peers up-field through the sweat and blood.
He’s on Lang Park – the same field he’d been beaten on so many times before.
This has not been a happy hunting ground for the grizzled warhorse.
Gallen was the leader of the hated New South Wales Blues as the Maroons ran riot for what seemed an eternity. The Sharks never had much more luck under Gallen’s rule.
Like all the great villains, Gallen always played his role perfectly.
Anybody living in the sunshine state would probably think twice about pissing on a burning Paul Gallen carcass. But after all the losses, all the shame, all the disappointment, the mighty lock surged one last time.
All the times he tucked the ball under his arm and charged forward when his teammates couldn’t take any more, for the all times he took an elbow or hip to his beaten face, for all the times he copped abuse from the furious Queensland crowds, tonight was for him.
Oh, Paul Gallen, you great villain.
Bravo and a tip of the cap, tonight.
For even with the time running out and thousands of Gold Coast Titans fans sticking pins into their Gallen voodoo dolls, the captain did it his way.
The Sharks received a late penalty within kicking distance.
Gallen could have been talking about anything but he made his halfback Chad Townsend wait and wait and wait. The crowd booed. The referee finally called time off.
He will never be able to take Queensland’s State of Origin onslaught away from them but this was Gallen in his prime – living every last second.
If nothing else, he outlasted some of his greatest foes. The retired Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater. Corey Parker in the commentary box, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith watching from hotel rooms somewhere up the road.
It may not have been Origin in front of 50,000 Queenslanders but it was good enough for Gallen.
And with seconds remaining, Gallen took the ball on halfway. He palmed off three defenders, kicked, regained and ran around the fullback to score untouched under the posts.
Okay, so that might be the story from him in a decade after thirteen beers at the local.
In reality, Gallen grabbed the footy from four metres out.
In Gallen’s way, he just ran and wanted it more than the man in front of him. After running 197 metres for the night already, the last four may have been the easiest. Nothing was stopping him.
Finally, after all the hurt, all those years of torment, Paul Gallen scored a try in his final ever run of a footy at Suncorp Stadium.
With the cherry on top, the veteran, ego firmly intact, demanded the Steeden to take the conversion. Luckily he kicked the goal. Imagine Cronulla missed the playoffs because of his kick in his last season?
And if that wasn’t enough, the tyro then took his finger and pressed it against his lips in one last shot at anyone north of the border.
This was Gallen’s night.
His last middle finger to Suncorp and all those that ever felt one piece of hatred against him.
The best part is, Paul Gallen doesn’t care.
Good on him.
Rugby league would be a far more entertaining place with more characters like Paul Gallen.