Cronulla have been buoyed with inspirational skipper Paul Gallen expected to return from knee surgery within just three weeks.
The NSW Origin captain was expected to sit on the sidelines for four to six weeks after suffering knee ligament damage in last week’s NRL season-opening loss to premiers North Queensland.
But after watching the 34-year-old back-rower fly through his first few days of rehabilitation, coach Shane Flanagan tipped his workhorse to miss just three weeks, meaning he could be back as early as round five against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on April 2.
After undergoing surgery on Monday night, he was back in the club gym two days later, giving Flanagan hope he would return to the paddock sooner rather than later.
“I saw him earlier and he’s in good spirits, he’s in the gym training, riding the bike already,” Flanagan said.
“I’m tipping it’s not going to be six weeks, it’s going to be more like half that.
“At every stage every club is going to miss your players and you need to be good enough to win without your quality players.”
Without Gallen, Cronulla face an important mental test against local rivals St George Illawarra on Sunday.
Not only will the Cronulla pack need to shoulder the heavy workload that Gallen takes on, he is also seen as the club’s talisman.
Gallen will be missing during the crucial representative period later in the year and Flanagan said they needed to learn how to win without him.
“At different stages when Gal’s been out guys like Wade Graham and Michael Ennis and the Fifita’s (Andrew and David) have stood up,” he said.
“Every side will be without their stars at different stages and it’s an opportunity for someone to stand up.”
The Sharks received further positive news on Friday with security and cleaning company Southern Cross Group coming on board as naming rights sponsor for Shark Park.
Southern Cross replace Remondis who held the stadium naming rights for the previous three years.