Scans at 6.45am today could determine NSW's prospects in the State of Origin series. Cronulla and NSW captain Paul Gallen said last night he was confident he would be fit for Sunday's clash with Melbourne, and thus the Blues' opener, but he will be sweating on the results of this morning's assessment just to make sure.
Gallen said shortly after damaging his right knee in the 56th minute of last night's defeat at the hands of South Sydney that he feared he had suffered a season-ending injury. But that was ruled out by Cronulla's medical staff in the aftermath of a dramatic contest, in which the Blues star was placed on report for making contact with the head of Rabbitohs second-rower David Taylor using his knees.
"I just went to take off, and something clicked in my knee," Gallen said of the injury. "It's not too bad. I'm walking around all right now. It's definitely not my ACL, which is good. I'll just see how the scan is.
"The tackle before, someone just cut me from the side. It was just like a normal knock . . . I've never had it happen before. It was a bit scary.
"You see guys when they try to run, and something happens, you think the worst. I did think that at first. But that's definitely not the case. They've 100 per cent ruled that out. They think posterior cruciate at worst."
Betting on the State of Origin was suspended by TAB Sportsbet as a result of Gallen's injury, although the lock maintained he expected to be fit for the May 23 encounter.
"I'm pretty positive about it," he said. "I'm not in a real lot of pain. I think I'll be right."
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he hoped Gallen would be fit for Sunday's clash with the Storm. "It hasn't blown up or anything like that," he said. "He just wasn't confident to come back on. We just made a decision at that stage to leave him off."
Still, the injury might not be his only problem. Gallen, the inspirational Blues forward, was reported in just the fourth minute of last night's clash, another Monday night encounter that could prove costly for NSW coach Ricky Stuart. Gallen had made contact with the head of Taylor, the Rabbitohs' Queensland forward, and faces a nervous wait today as the match review committee decides whether to charge arguably the Blues' most important player.
The Blues squad to play the Maroons on May 23 will be named this Sunday, which means Gallen needs only a two-match suspension to be ruled out of the first clash.
The Blues have already suffered some costly losses. Former skippers Kurt Gidley and Danny Buderus are already out of contention through injury, while it is also likely centre Michael Jennings will not be fit. Stuart will not be the only one sweating on the results of the match review committee's deliberations.
Gallen had tackled Taylor, and as he and the Queenslander got to their feet, the Sharks player appeared to make contact with Taylor's head with his knees. Gallen had claimed the contact was accidental, however Souths skipper Michael Crocker said: "You can't knee him in the face."
"I didn't even know I was put on report," Gallen said later. "He had a hold of my leg, and it was a penalty, which is fair enough."
Rabbitohs players Matt King and Josh Starling were also placed on report for tackles on Matthew Wright and Mark Taufua, respectively, decisions that even earned the ire of the opposing coach.
Flanagan said officials were "pedantic" about contact to the head. "I think they do it for the drama of the crowd," he said.
Gallen agreed, saying: "It's a tough game of football, and contact's going to happen sometimes accidentally. I thought it was a bit of a joke out there."
The one bright spark for the Blues last night was the form of Sharks five-eighth Todd Carney, who scored a try himself in a strong individual display that further pressed his own claims for a debut Origin jersey.
But that was all overshadowed by Gallen's knees-up.
SOUTH SYDNEY 34 (G Inglis 3 N Merritt 2 tries A Reynolds 7 goals) bt CRONULLA 28 (C Best T Carney S Mills B Pomeroy J Robson tries T Carney 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Chris James. Crowd: 13,281.