Sharks keep close watch on Gallen's battle for All Stars fitness
Hoping to have the last laugh ... Cronulla captain Paul Gallen shares a joke with American boxer and martial artist Kimbo Slice. Photo: Chrisopher Lane
CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan said he and the Sharks medical staff will make the final decision on whether Paul Gallen plays in the NRL All Stars match on February 9.
Gallen, who was last week in hospital battling a staph infection after undergoing elbow surgery, is still in doubt for the annual pre-season match.
So concerned is Flanagan of losing his captain and best player for the start of the NRL season, he rang Gallen while he was in hospital last week to express his concerns over him playing in the match at Suncorp Stadium.
Flanagan said: ''I just planted the seed while he was in hospital so he doesn't pack his bags or book any flights just yet and he was OK with that. Gal just likes playing football and it's hard for him to miss games.
''But he understands how long the season is and how important it is to get off to a good start and for him to be there. On one hand he understands but on the other hand he wants to play.''
Gallen was on restricted duties at training on Friday, unsure on just how much his elbow would recover over the next week. While he's desperate to play for the NRL All Stars, he admitted he understood Cronulla's reluctance to allow him to take part.
''I wouldn't say I'm confident, I wouldn't say I'm not confident - I'm just taking each day as it comes, not much else I can do,'' Gallen said.
''It's a difficult game. The first few years everyone really got behind it, and the last couple of years a few big name players are starting to pull out.
''It's an important game for myself. I want to play, but I understand the club are pretty concerned about me playing in it. I'm not going into it 100 per cent fit, and I certainly know a lot of sponsors and fans have said something as well.''
Gallen, who will resume contact work next week, has had a busy off-season having married his partner Anne, and travelled on his honeymoon before taking part in his debut fight in a boxing event in New Zealand.
He underwent surgery on his elbow before Christmas, then went back into hospital last week to treat the infection.
The NSW skipper said: ''I've got to say realistically I'm not where I should be at this time of year but the club's not too concerned. If things go to plan for me and I stay fit it's going to be a real long year so I've got to be fit at the back end.''
Cronulla centre Ben Pomeroy requires minor surgery to remove scar tissue in his groin and is in doubt for round one.