Hype ... Gallen has urged fans to relax. Photo: Brendan Esposito
CRONULLA skipper Paul Gallen said he had advised some Cronulla fans to look at how Wests Tigers and Newcastle fared last season before saddling the Sharks with unrealistic expectations.
Hopes are high in the shire that after 46 years of fruitless endeavour this could be the year when the Sharks finally break their premiership drought. But Gallen refused to be trapped by the hype associated with his team being bolstered by quality players including Luke Lewis, Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan and Michael Gordon.
‘‘There’s definitely added expectation,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s a lot of excitement in the area but, from my point of view, I believe there’s a lot of work to do. I find whenever I speak to people I’m trying to tell them to relax because you can’t expect a team to do well just because it has good players.
‘‘There is much more to it. You need to gel as a team. Look at last year, on paper there weren’t too many better teams than the Wests Tigers and Newcastle but they didn’t even make the eight. Then there’s the Bulldogs, who I thought would be pushing the top eight, but they were grand finalists.
‘‘It comes down to the cohesion in the team, how much the blokes want to play for each other, and that’s something we’re working on at Cronulla at the moment.’’
And regardless of how the Sharks might fair in the upcoming trial matches, Gallen advised supporters to read little into their form regardless of whether it was red-hot or scratchy.
‘‘I’m anti-trial matches, to be honest,’’ he said. ‘‘ I think [form] comes down to how you train together and how you get on off the field and on the field. If you’re a good-time group and everyone gets on, then it’s generally reflected [by performances]. If you look at a trial game, most teams play their best side for 40 minutes. It’ll certainly help us but there’s more to [developing cohesion] than that.’’
The NSW Origin skipper revealed his reputation as an iron man was not a badge of honour and he expected it was likely he would not play as many minutes this season.
‘‘People definitely read too much into it,’’ he said. ‘‘I just enjoy getting out there and competing. Whether I play for 80minutes or not it’s all about results for the team at the end of the day.
‘‘If I’m playing only 50 or 60minutes and we’re winning, I’m going to be happy. People do read too much into that. Flano [coach Shane Flanagan] has never said I won’t be playing 80minutes, but he has options, so if I don’t need to [play the entire match] I don’t have to any more.’’
He added Flanagan would also decide how Lewis, who played in Gallen’s position of second row at Penrith and representative level, would be used.
‘‘When you look at Luke’s career, he started on the wing and he’s been predominantly an edge player,’’ Gallen said. ‘‘He also played in the halves at Penrith ... and as far as Cronulla goes we see him as an edge player.
‘‘If he needs to push into the middle to accommodate me going off the field, he can. We also have [ex-Wests Tiger] Chris Heighington there, too.’’
While winning a premiership and guiding NSW to a desperately desired State of Origin series win was Gallen’s focus, he nominated the referees as potentially the biggest issue of 2013 after the scrutiny they were placed under last season.
‘‘I think the referees were a big issue last year and it remains to be seen how they go [this season],’’ he said. ‘‘They have a new coach [in former Parramatta and New Zealand Warriors mentor Daniel Anderson] and they’ll come up with some new methods and, I suppose, new calls.
‘‘It will be interesting to see how it goes because, I have to say, they impacted on results last year and it was unfortunate.’’