It's Not About Me: Gallen
Paul Gallen has given a lot to his state over the past decade, and as he approaches the final game for his beloved Blues, the NSW skipper says he has one parting gift for the next wave of players ready to do the jersey proud.
Entering his 24th and final game for the Blues, Gallen wants the following week to be about the players of the future; not about him getting the fairytale send-off many people believe he deserves.
With Wade Graham and James Tedesco set to make their NSW debuts, and a further four players featuring in their first series, Gallen wants to spend the next week focusing on them and ensuring they are ready for the challenges ahead.
"As far as it being my last game, I don't want it to be about me. It's about these young guys coming through, and that's my job for this week," he said.
"I was never after a swansong. I wanted to be here because I deserved to be here.
"When I did speak to senior management about it they said there's no doubt I've still got a role to play here, so that's why I'm here.
"I need to teach them about Origin, I need to teach them how to get to a game fit and healthy, and that's what I want to leave them with.
"Unfortunately I can't leave them with a series win, but hopefully I can finish my last game with a win for the state and for these guys and they can carry it into the future."
Gallen's absence from 2017 onwards will open the door for the next NSW captain to be anointed, and with Blues deputy Robbie Farah's Origin future uncertain, youth looks the most likely option.
"I think that's what this week is about for myself and also Robbie," he said.
"Robbie may be here next year. If he's not, that's what the week's about; me and Robbie teaching these blokes how to do it and teaching them how to get to Wednesday night with their minds on the job.
"I'm sure Laurie (Blues coach Laurie Daley) will notice one or two guys take in what we're doing. Whether it's Woodsy (Aaron Woods) or [Boyd] Cordner – who's not here – or Wade Graham, it could be one of them."
While he's felt the full force of the Queensland juggernaut in Origin over the past decade, nobody can take away Gallen's drought-breaking series win as skipper in 2014.
While a premiership for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at the end of the season might trump it, Gallen described the feeling two years ago as "the highlight of my career" and one he will always cherish.
"That was awesome, and I sort of look back over the past couple of years and think what could have been," he pondered.
"I missed Game One last year and then we won Game Two. I missed the decider in 2013 with Jarryd Hayne, so I sort of think about the past and think "if only".
"Unfortunately you don't get those chances in Origin. Queensland have been too good and you've got to give them credit."
Gallen might be keen to avoid the spotlight in his farewell from the Origin arena, but his teammates have vowed to send their skipper out a winner.
Vice-captain Robbie Farah said that while a series win was out of reach, Blues players would do their all to ensure Gallen ended his decade-long NSW career in style.
"I think he deserves to go out a winner, and for us as a playing group, we'll be doing everything we can to ensure that," he said.
"We didn't touch on it much before Game Two. We didn't want to use that as motivation, but obviously afterwards you sit back and you're disappointed that we are going into a dead rubber now and 'Gal' won't have the opportunity to lift the shield here in front of his home crowd.
"I guess the small consolation would be to send him out a winner in his last game and I think he deserves that."
Blues coach Laurie Daley helped orchestrate the 2014 series win with Gallen and has urged the Sydney faithful to come out in droves to support the man who has gallantly led their state.
"He's given great service to NSW through tough periods and I think he needs to be rewarded for that," Daley said.
"Hopefully people are respectful of what he's been able to do through those tough times and give him their support on the night and hopefully people will come out and support the team."
This article first appeared on NRL.com