Cronulla and NSW captain Paul Gallen is a 50-50 proposition to make his long-awaited return from a glute injury in the club’s NRL local derby against St George Illawarra on Sunday.
Gallen is approaching full fitness after recovering from the injury which has hampered him for most of the season.
He ran during the side’s captain’s run on Saturday however coach Shane Flanagan is keeping his cards close to his chest and would not reveal whether Gallen would run out against the Dragons.
The club are taking a cautious approach with Gallen’s return because if he were to exacerbate or re-injure himself it would likely spell the end of his season.
He is however considered a guarantee to play against the Sydney Roosters next week and be fit for State of Origin II in Melbourne on June 17.
Gallen resumed contact work with the Sharks squad this week and coach Shane Flanagan said he was running at top speed.
Gallen battled through soreness in his glute and hip in the early rounds, playing through adversity with the aid of painkillers, before suffering a torn glute tendon in the lead up to round five and he has endured a frustrating stop-start battle to get fit ever since.
He has not played since round 6 in early April and his return would be a boon for not only Cronulla, but NSW as well.
“He’s running really good, he’s running at top speed, but it’s all about impact now, copping some whacks and wrestling on the ground and carrying a few blokes on his back when he’s carrying that football,” Flanagan said.
“He’s getting close.”
Gallen is also close to inking a new one-year deal which will ensure he will remain a one-club player when he draws his NRL career to a close next season.
The Dragons’ two Origin stars Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan will back up against the Sharks. Dugan will play despite copping a corked hip in Origin I.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he was satisfied with his side’s attacking record, despite scoring the fewest tries per game of any team.
He did however challenge his halves of Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop to take better control of their sets and ensure they got their fifth tackle options right.
“We’re comfortable with how things have been going with our attack,” McGregor said.
“We built our game around our defence and if we get that right our attack will follow.
“It’s all to do with field position and getting opportunities and when you get those opportunities you make sure you come up with the right decision.
“And that’s probably the only thing that’s been letting our attack down a little bit, our end decisions.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Dragons have conceded just 48 second half points this season, by far the fewest of any team.
* The Dragons have dominated Cronulla since 2009 with nine wins from their past 12 clashes.
* The Dragons have conceded just 12 points per game, 2.1 tries per game and 3.2 line breaks per game on average.