Actions Far Louder Than Words
"Just because you get picked for Origin doesn't make you an Origin player."
New NSW captain Boyd Cordner quoted former skipper Paul Gallen when addressing his players earlier in the week, describing what it meant to take over as captain of the Blues.
With the sentiment of those words still echoing in NSW camp, Gallen turned out for Cronulla and showed exactly what they meant.
If the Blues want to know what they need to do to beat Queensland in Origin I at Suncorp Stadium, they need only look at the actions of their former captain. When the game is on the line, they need to do the simple things well, and own the moment. Push your body forward when it doesn't want to.
Gallen could still inspire NSW to victory over Queensland, even though he won't line up in sky blue.
His determination in two key moments of Cronulla's clash with Canterbury-Bankstown inspired his team into action and to two competition points.
With the Bulldogs riding a wave of momentum and the Sharks out on their feet with just 15 minutes left, it was a piece of sheer grit and determination from Gallen that got his team back in the contest.
First he was the man back to take a perfectly weighted Matt Frawley grubber and force his way back into the field of play, saving the Sharks from a repeat set of defence. It was inspirational. And it immediately lifted the Sharks out of hibernation.
45 seconds later, they had scored at the opposite end of the field and tied the ball game. It galvanised Cronulla and the sold-out crowd who sensed the game had swung on the back of their skipper's heroics.
One play can change a game.
With the scores tied and the game clock ticking down, he did it again.
The Sharks captain got the ball on the 35 metre line, pinned his ears back and just charged like his life depended on it, breaking two tackles and shooting straight through the other side.
Gallen just ran straight and hard and even though the Bulldogs defence knew what was coming, they were powerless to stop him, as he broke their line and their hearts with a lung-busting run full of purpose.
Once he had broken the line, it would have been tempting to keep fighting for every inch, but Gallen's experience was telling.
When he realised he wasn't going to score, he actually slowed down near the 10 metre line and found his stomach. It gave his team the perfect set-up for a field goal that was aptly put away under no pressure. Gallen knew that fighting any further would allow the Bulldogs defence to regroup and pressure the field-goal attempt.
By slowing down after making the break, he got a quick play the ball and the Bulldogs had no chance to do anything other than watch and hope as Chad Townsend snapped his shot from straight in front.
The run turned a difficult 35 metre field-goal attempt to a 20 metre snap.
It was the mark of an Origin player.
"When you look at it, I made the same amount of runs I probably make and same tackles but sometimes you get lucky and one of those runs leads to a break," Gallen said.
"When I got out of the in-goal, it was just one of those things that fortunately happened for me so that's what I do, just put myself in the game and sometimes things come off."
Statistically, Gallen was right, it was no different to any other game he had played in the Sharks jersey. But what the statistics can't possibly reveal is what and when those metres and tackle breaks were made.
They were game defining plays under enormous duress.
He put himself in a position to be involved, and owned the big moment.
In the Origin arena, with the teams evenly matched, you need to do the simple things well, keep yourself in the game, absorb pressure and own the moment when it comes.
We are about to find out if these NSW Blues are indeed Origin players.
This article first appeared on NRL.com