State or shire. That’s the choice Paul Gallen will have to make when he sits down to plot the final year of his NRL career.
NSW skipper Gallen has already declared 2016 will be his last with his beloved Cronulla before an expected move offshore to the Super League to finish his career.
Of course that also means next season will be his last chance for more State of Origin glory.
Queensland’s 52-6 humiliation of NSW in the 2015 series decider suggests no player can be guaranteed a Blues jersey for game one next year, and Sharks powerbrokers appear keen for their captain to dedicate his final year in Australia solely to his club.
Gallen spoke before Origin III of his desire to again lift the Origin shield as Blues skipper this season and next.
The dream of back-to-back titles for the Blues is dead, but the motivation will be strong for Gallen to return and help avenge NSW’s dark moment by returning them to the top.
But what would surpass even NSW’s drought-breaking 2014 series win for Gallen, would be to lead the Sharks to their first-ever premiership.
That looks unlikely this year, but with Sydney Roosters premiership winner James Maloney joining local product Chad Townsend in the halves for the Sharks in 2016, Gallen will have reason to believe have a decent chance to finally break their premiership hoodoo.
And therein lies the conundrum for Gallen. His state or his shire, his Sharks or his Blues?
He might argue he can have his cake and eat it too by enjoying both premiership and Origin success.
But he turns 34 in August and, given his enormous workload over the years, it is a massive ask for his body. He has missed a substantial chunk of this season through injury.
Phil Gould already thinks he is too old to keep playing for NSW.
A decision on his future won’t likely come until the off season.
Blues coach Laurie Daley will surely want confirmation of that, if Gallen is part of his plans, when he begins his Origin preparations in the pre-season.
But it isn’t something that is on Gallen’s mind right now.
“That (loss) doesn’t change anything,” he said of his possible Origin retirement.
“My focus was only on that game and nothing else.”