NSW captain Paul Gallen is dumbfounded by State of Origin great Peter Sterling’s call for him to be dropped from this year’s series.
Sterling on Wednesday night claimed the veteran Cronulla forward had fallen down the pecking order for a spot in the NSW pack, arguing he couldn’t find room for him in his best 17.
The comments have shocked Gallen, who believes he is still playing well enough to lead NSW out in the series-opener against Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
“I’m a bit dumbfounded by it to be honest,” he told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“All I can do is go out and play well but to think that only a month ago I was out of the Australian side and I played well enough to slip my way back in there and got man-of-the-match for the Test.
“I just don’t know how me not being in that is justified.”
The Blues were on the end of a record 52-6 defeat in last year’s series-decider, prompting calls for an overhaul of a squad that has won only one of the past ten series.
However Gallen, who has confirmed the 2016 series will be his swansong, doesn’t believe he should be the fall-guy for the flogging.
“And not just because I’m the current captain,” he said.
“I think that you look at all those players Sterlo has picked in front of me or whoever is in the side at the moment and compare our individual games and how I’m playing, I honestly think I’m playing really well and I don’t think I deserve not to be there.”
Sterling, who played 13 Tests and 18 Origins during the 1980s, said that despite Gallen’s good form, he could not justify selecting the 34-year-old ahead of the likes of Aaron Woods, James Tamou, David Klemmer, Andrew Fifita or Parramatta enforcer Beau Scott.
“I’ve gone with 11 players who were involved in that 56-6 loss last year,” Sterling told Fox Sports on Wednesday night.
“The glaring omission is Paul Gallen, who was fantastic for Australia and is in really good form.
“But if I picked Gal I would have had to have left off either (David) Klemmer or (Andrew) Fifita and I didn’t want to do that.”