Paul Gallen of the Kangaroos warms up during the Australian Kangaroos training session at Western Springs Stadium in Auckland yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Something has been different for Paul Gallen in Test camp this week. Not only is he the new Australian vice captain, but he has joined his teammates with his club side Cronulla in winning form.
''All the boys have noticed it too,'' Gallen laughed. ''They always talk to me like it's a shock.'' Far less of a shock than Cronulla's five-match winning streak is the emergence of Gallen as new captain Cameron Smith's deputy. The renovation of Gallen has been given another storey this week. He is another step towards captaining his country.
''It's a pretty big honour,'' Gallen said. ''And if anything happens to Smithy, or he gets rested, it will be nice maybe at the end of my career to say I have captained Australia for a game. We'll see. Maybe one day.''
It doesn't matter what game.
''There is a World Cup next year,'' he said. ''It's a big goal of mine to get to the World Cup again after the result in 2008. As long as I can keep playing well, and keep my spot for next year, if he [Smith] does need a rest against anyone, whether it be Russia or someone like that …''
Gallen said he expected Smith to be Australia's next ordained captain after the retirement of Darren Lockyer. He didn't expect to be named his vice-captain.
In fact, as the minutes ticked away on Sunday, he started to wonder whether he had actually made the team. He was finally put out of his misery when he saw the team announcement on a television news bulletin.
''I always get a bit worried,'' Gallen said. ''I never count my chickens before the hatch. I hadn't heard a thing all day Sunday and … I was a bit concerned.
''I got my name called out [and] I had a call from [NSW coach] Ricky Stuart and he congratulated me.
''I actually rang Bob Fulton to say thanks because I know it's something that hasn't been done for a few years. I got wind that he wanted it named again.''
And he wanted Gallen. Which is remarkable because Gallen, some years back, was bitter and appeared to be angry at the world, a captain's worst nightmare rather than a captain-in-waiting.
On the field, he was known more for giving away penalties than for his imposing performances from either lock or prop forward.
''Probably since 2009 there were some pretty dark times there,'' Gallen said. ''I always say it's my little girl [Charly] that helped me a fair bit. My little girl and now my little boy - that's calmed me down a bit.
''I have always been the same sort of person off the field. It's just on the field I have definitely been conscious of giving away penalties.
''They're such a big thing in the game these days. Talking tough and carrying on tough doesn't mean you are tough on the field.''
Rather incredibly, Gallen doesn't like to watch vision of his performances.
''I never watch a game I have played,'' he said. ''I hate having to go to video sessions during the week - that's the worst part of footy. I try to look forward.'' Glenn Jackson