Gallen hoping Sharks can make amends - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Gallen hoping Sharks can make amends

By Steve Jancetic 02/03/2009 06:29:24 PM Comments (0)

Strange as it sounds, Cronulla captain Paul Gallen can only feel disappointment when he looks back on 2008.

Strange because he led the Sharks to their best regular season finish since their minor premiership of 1999.

Strange because Cronulla finished just one win away from a grand final berth, going down to Melbourne in the preliminary final.

And finally, strange because Gallen achieved the game's ultimate individual honour, when awarded his first Test jumper.

But for all that, 2008 will go down as a season of missed opportunity.

"It's just the way that it ended ... that's all anyone remembers really," Gallen said.

"As the old saying goes, you're only as good as your last game, and our last game was pretty poor.

"Last year we achieved some good things at the Sharks, but the way it all ended took away from all that, it certainly left a sour taste in my mouth.

"We did some good things, took some steps forward.

"I've spoken to a few people who said we probably overachieved last year finishing equal third, but if you talk to the playing group and have a look at our season, there's at least one game that we lost that we should have won throughout the year - we could have been minor premiers quite easily."

It's that mentality of unfinished business that Gallen and the Sharks take into 2009.

Coach Ricky Stuart has recruited superbly in addressing areas of weakness from last season with the acquisition of three current or former Test players - Trent Barrett, Reni Maitua and Anthony Tupou - as well as crafty hooker Corey Hughes.

All four should give Cronulla more venom in attack, somewhere the Sharks were found wanting last year with their 75 tries the worst in the league.

Couple that with the defensive wall that frustrated every team in the competition last year and it's easy to see why there is renewed optimism at the club.

"We lost a lot of good players last year, hopefully we've picked up some better ones," Gallen said of the reshaped roster.

"Trent Barrett has just been unbelievable at training, he's helped me enormously, just leading the team as well as just his skill level, it's just been unreal at training.

"Now we've just got to get him convert it to the field which he's more than capable of doing, he's been doing it for 10 to 15 years."

Barrett's arrival - following a two-year stint in Super League with Wigan - will undoubtedly go a long way towards determining how far the Sharks go this season.

With Brett Kimmorley and Greg Bird gone, Barrett is the undisputed No.1 playmaker for the side, though he is likely to do much of it from five-eighth.

If he can return the sort of player he was during his distinguished eight years with St George Illawarra, when he was a regular in NSW Origin teams, the Sharks could go all the way.

But if 12 years of top-flight football start slowing the 31-year-old's body, then a repeat of last year's long run into the post-season could be difficult to match.

Gallen said Barrett's contribution would go well beyond just his playmaking ability.

"Trent coming here, he probably hasn't done any different to what he's done the past 10 years," Gallen said.

"Just his presence at training, when he talks people listen to him, I don't have to do as much.

"He's certainly going to be controlling most of our plays - he's pretty similar to what Noddy (Kimmorley) was for me I suppose."

Barrett may find it hard to make an immediate impact however with Gallen and Maitua both likely to miss the early part of the season with injuries picked up in trial matches.

And while it's hardly the sort of start Stuart would have been hoping for heading into the new campaign, as Gallen can attest, it's what you do at the end of the season that matters most.

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