NSW captain Paul Gallen is officially available for State of Origin selection next year after finally reaching an agreement with Cronulla.
Gallen has agreed to a one-year contract extension with the Sharks and has the option of playing on until the end of 2017 after the NRL club bowed to the inspirational skipper’s demands on Wednesday.
Being free to continue his representative career had been a sticking point in the long-running negotiations, with the Sharks wanting the Test star to focus solely on helping the club break its infamous premiership drought.
Gallen has now not only won that battle, but also been given the green light to box in the off-season and secured a three-year ambassadorial role with the Sharks following his retirement.
Turning 34 next month, Gallen accepts he may not even be picked for NSW again after the Blues’ record 52-6 loss in this year’s series decider.
But it’s the principle that matters and the veteran enforcer is delighted Sharks chief executive Lyall Gorman relented.
“Look, If I’m fit and I’m playing well enough, I definitely want to play. That’s for sure,” Gallen said.
“(But) that was one thing I said to Lyall. We’ll argue in a couple of weeks over something that we don’t know is even going to happen.
“Obviously we were beaten by a pretty large margin and the team may change next year.
“I just felt that it should be my decision that I’m able to play – or that I put myself in a position that I’m able to play – and obviously now it’s up to (NSW coach) Laurie Daley.
“If he thinks I’m the best player for the spot, then I’ll be there.”
The 251-game forward, who debuted for Cronulla as a teenager way back in 2001, never wanted to leave the Sharks but conceded for a brief period about a month ago he contemplated looking elsewhere.
“It was tough at the time. I’ve been here a long, long time,” he said.
“I started my career here and I want to finish it here.”
Gorman on Wednesday acknowledged the Sharks leader deserved that opportunity.
“He’s an icon of the game, not just our club,” Gorman said.
“But he’s certainly behind only ET (Andrew Ettingshausen) in terms of number of games for our club.
“And there’s no doubt that he will go down in the annuls of history as one of the absolute greats and immortals over time.
“So it’s a great day for the club.”
Gallen won’t decide until next year whether or not he continues with the Sharks for a 17th season in 2017 – or heads to the English Super League.
But he still loves the game and insists his body remains up to the rigours physically.
“When you look at the games and how I’ve played them, I think bar Corey Parker I don’t think there’s any player in the league who is able to do what Corey and I do,” Gallen said.
“That’s play 80 minutes in the middle of the field and make as many tackles and as many runs that we do.
“As long as my body holds up, there’s no reason that I can’t keep going.”