Paul Gallen has sent Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga a timely reminder of his desire to reclaim his green and gold jumper with his best performance of the NRL season on Sunday.
Just two days before Meninga is expected to name his Australia team for the annual mid-year Test against New Zealand on May 6, Gallen wound back the clock with a vintage outing for Cronulla in a win over Penrith.
The Sharks skipper notched season-highs in metres run (212) and tackles (45) in a typically lion-hearted effort that NRL coach Shane Flanagan almost described as perfect.
“No errors, no missed tackles … maybe one missed tackle,” Flanagan smiled post-game.
It was also Gallen’s first 80-minute shift of the season.
“I could’ve done with (a spell),” an exasperated Gallen said.
But the NSW State of Origin captain was instead left out there to lead his club to victory in what was a stark reminder of why he’s been a Kangaroos staple since making his international debut in 2008.
The 34-year-old has made no secret of his intention to win back his spot in the Australian line-up, having missed the past five Tests due to a combination of injuries and suspension.
He played no part in the 2014 Four Nations series after pleading guilty to the use of banned peptides, and then was kept out of last year’s traditional fixture because of a hip problem.
“It’s a goal of mine to get my Test jumper back,” Gallen said.
“I’ve made it my own for the best part of eight years, always cherish playing for Australia, and have always put my best foot forward when I played there.
“I want to play for Australia, there’s no doubt about that. All I can do is what I’m doing for Cronulla and if I get picked, I get picked.”
Meninga is expected to name the majority of the side that played in their past Test – a shock defeat to New Zealand in Brisbane last season.
However, Parramatta winger Semi Radradra is considered a strong chance to make his Test debut on the left flank, despite calls for the Fijian to represent his native country.
Meninga said if Radradra was eligible to play for Australia, then he should be allowed to.
“If he’s the best left winger running around in Australian rugby league and he’s eligible to play for Australia, that’s what should happen,” Meninga told AAP.
“That’s the Australian jersey, you’ve got to give it to your best players. The ones that deserve it.”