Gal: Queensland’s booing inspires me
PAUL Gallen has an unlikely message for Queensland's rugby league faithful ahead of his final regular season game at Suncorp Stadium.
"Thank you," he said with a wry smile.
"If you didn't boo me, if you didn't inspire so much, I would have retired years ago, so thank you."
Gallen's time as New South Wales Blues skipper and enforcer during the Maroons' era of Origin dominance helped him spawn a reputation for being one of the most hated men to ever run onto the hallowed turf.
He's expecting similar treatment on Thursday and isn't holding out for a show of respect from fans during his last appearance at the venue when the Sharks take on the Titans in the opening game of the Magic Round.
"No, I wouldn't want it [their respect]. It wouldn't be the same," Gallen said.
But the feeling is mutual.
Asked if he was harbouring any sentiment about one last hurrah north of border Gallen said: "Not one bit. I don't want a farewell tour like JT [Johnathan Thurston] did, not at all. It's too distracting for everyone I think."
Suncorp Stadium has never been a happy hunting ground for Gallen, both at the NRL and representative levels.
According to Fox Sports Lab, the veteran hardman only won four of the 23 games he has played there since 2005.
At club level, Gallen's worst win percentage is at Suncorp Stadium. He's played nine games for just the single win.
It doesn't get much better while in sky blue jumper, losing nine of the 11 Origin games he has played there.
"It hasn't been the kindest place to me, obviously throughout Origin and I don't know how many games we've won there as a Sharks team," he said.
"Then there's the boos every time I touch the ball … people ask me to I hear it. You do hear it, the difference in the change in noise, but I've always said it means I must have done something right over the years."
Even one of the biggest milestone games of his career is tainted by the stadium.
"I was Dally M lock of the year in 2017, I think I had four errors for the whole year and three of them were in that game, in my 300th game, against Brisbane and we got absolutely hammered," Gallen said.
But there is one memory Gallen recalls that transforms his wry smile into a knowing smirk. One that turned the 52,000 boos into a 'beautiful' silence - the efforts of Beau Scott and Jarryd Hayne to snuff out Queensland's last gasp play and any chance of stealing yet another victory at the death.
"My best time was game one in 2014 where we set up winning that series, when they had all their players there," he said.
"That last 20 minutes we defended our line the whole time and you could hear them [the fans] screaming and roaring.
"But the disappointment in the noise from the crowd when we tackled [Billy] Slater at the end of that game was beautiful."
Meanwhile, Gallen had a warning for NSW over Cameron Smith's rumoured Origin return.
The former Blues skipper believes an SOS from Maroons coach Kevin Walter to bring Smith out of representative retirement for game one would be the worst possible scenario for Brad Fittler and his troops.
"Would I like to see him? As a New South Welshman, no. He could be the difference if he comes back in my opinion," Gallen said.
"I'm sick of wrapping the bloke, he's the best player I have ever seen. But that's an area [hooker] that New South Wales have it over them and if he was to come back, it would be a big plus for them. Whether he wants to or not, I don't know."
The veteran Blues enforcer also implored Fittler to stick with his current halves combination of Penrith duo James Maloney and Nathan Cleary.
Gallen said the Blues' history of chopping and changing players in the side's two most key positions needed to stop.
"I'm a big advocate for trying to keep them together but they have to show something in the next few weeks. it's a big few weeks for them both," he said.
"I don't know if they can leave Cleary out. In the past 13-14 years in Origin we've won two series and how many halves have we used? 20. They've probably used maybe eight.
"At some stage we have to stick solid with someone and I think that's probably Cleary.
"If Penrith keep going the way they are and don't turn things around then Jimmy may be in danger with Luke Keary playing so well."