Wade Graham has paid tribute to retiring Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks captain Paul Gallen after revealing he is the player who has had the biggest influence on his career.
Graham signed with the Sharks at age 21 when Gallen was the best forward in the world. Since then, Graham has gone from Gallen’s understudy to sharing leadership duties with him at the club.
Graham’s NSW debut was in Gallen’s farewell State of Origin game in 2016 and now three years later on Sunday he will chair the inspirational Cronulla skipper off Shark Park for the final time.
“There hasn’t been a greater influence on my career than Paul Gallen,” Graham said on Inside The NRL.
“The way he’s played throughout his career, the way he’s led, his toughness, he’s just someone that’s always been there.
“It’s going to be a massive hole not just for the club but for me personally when he leaves next year.
“No matter what I’ve been dealing with or how I’ve been leading he’s the guy I’ve always gone to so it’s going to be different seeing the big fella go but hopefully we can send him out on a positive this year and get into the finals and have a run at it.”
Gallen has achieved all there is in a Rugby League career and is arguably had the most individual influence on the Sharks than anyone else.
Graham went one step further and claimed that Gallen hasn’t just influenced the club but the entire position of a forward in the NRL.
“Gal’s been a warrior of the game, we’re lucky at Cronulla we’ve got to experience firsthand on the week-to-week basis, year-to-year basis,” Graham said.
“He really changed the way middles played there for a bit. His work rate, the amount of metres he got through the amount of tackles he got through.
“You see all the guys like Jason and Josh McGuire that play through the middle now, Gal’s really set the tone for that in the middle period of the late 2000’s.”
Sunday afternoon will be a massive occasion for Gallen; people young and old that have had an influence on his career will be at the ground to farewell him from Cronulla.
Graham hopes the team can fire up against the red-hot Canberra Raiders to ensure they can go with Gallen deep into the finals.
“What Gal’s done for the club, what Gal’s achieved for the club, to celebrate his last home game more for the fans and members that have watched him over the years,” Graham said.
“To top it off it’s Father Day, so he’ll have his kids down there, his old man will probably be down there.
“Sunday afternoon it doesn’t get much better, and it’s the last game at Pointsbet Stadium for two years now so it’s a big occasion.”