Cronulla Sharks turn it on against Gold Coast Titans in Paul Gallen’s milestone match


He played down Saturday’s achievement and will let himself properly reflect on it when he finally retires.

“We didn’t discuss it as a team, it wasn’t brought up once,” Gallen said.

“The years tick on, the games tick on. When you play this many it’s all about getting the result. Thankfully we did that.

“Certainly when I retire, when you look at other blokes and how many games they played and how well they played, playing over 300 at one club will be a big milestone when I’m finished.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Shire came to salute the veteran. His teammates turned up, too. Sensing the enormity of the occasion, they put their clash against the Gold Coast to bed by half-time. By then the hosts had scored four unanswered tries, winger Sione Katoa bagging the opening two. Up 20-0 come the main break, it was game over.

The Titans were never in it. Missing first-choice halves Ash Taylor and Tyrone Roberts, this was always going to be a huge ask. They crossed the Cronulla try line on three occasions in the opening stanza but were denied each time by the video referee. The Sharks had few opportunities but made the most of them.

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There were times when Cronulla relied heavily on their skipper to earn a victory. In his prime, there was no more valuable fantasy football commodity than Gallen, who would take at least two hit-ups every set. Now that he is 37 and has an abundance of class players around him, he doesn’t have to do it all on his own.

He played just 34 minutes in his milestone game and left the highlights to others. Andrew Fifita featured among them in one of the more unconventional tries of the year to date. The big bopper threw an errant pass, effectively to himself when he regathered it after it dribbled across the turf, and then kicked the ball backwards in the lead-up to his side’s third try.

The Titans briefly threatened a comeback, scoring early in the second half after a glut of possession. But this was not their day.

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Gallen wasn’t the only one with something to celebrate. Blayke Brailey finally got a chance to punch out some serious game time, although unfortunately it was at the expense of his injured brother. Starting hooker Jayden Brailey was forced off with concussion after 25 minutes and wasn’t allowed back on.

John Morris will also long remember this one. Like Gallen, he too joined the elite 300 club as a player, but this was his first victory with the clipboard.

CRONULLA 20 (S Katoa 2 J Dugan B Nikora tries S Johnson 2 goals) bt GOLD COAST 6 (B Lee try M Gordon goal) at Shark Park. Referees: Jon Stone, Tim Roby. Crowd: 15,217.

Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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