Gal’s confession: Maroons stars the best I’ve seen
NSW State of Origin villain Paul Gallen has made the surprising confession that four of his top seven rugby league heroes were Queenslanders who wiped the floor with Blues teams he played for.
It took him 364 pages of his absorbingly candid autobiography to admit it but Gallen has signed off from rugby league with a generous salute to the men who terrorised the Blues in his era.
Gallen said of the hundreds of players he played with or against there were seven who sat on the highest shelf - Blues David Peachey, Brett Kimmorley and Jason Stevens and Queenslanders Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.
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Some of his insights are unconventional such as his observation that Lockyer was the best dressed player he had ever played with.
"His shirts were always neatly pressed and his locker was precise and tidy,'' Gallen wrote in Heart and Soul.
"And, I guess, in some ways this reflected who Locky was as a player. Just perfect.
"When you stood beside Darren Lockyer you knew everything was going to be okay. He was calm under pressure, reliable in defence and a leader in every facet of the game.''
Gallen's believes Lockyer's greatest legacy was doing the small things like staying on after training to kick ball after ball to different parts of the field.
"I firmly believe Cooper Cronk adopted his professional approach to training from having watched Darren,'' he wrote.
Gallen also lauded champion fullback Slater's commitment to post-training extras and said he regularly saw him score tries from moves he watched him perfect at training.
But it was not Slater's mesmerising attack that impressed Gallen most.
"For me, Billy's defence was his greatest asset. He was fearless in defence. At the Sharks I would return from every Test series with Australia and spend as much time as I could talking to our fullbacks about Billy's focus on defence.
"I vividly recall Billy holding up Anthony Watmough during an Origin match. Watmough would have scored that try nine times out of 10.
"Billy stopped him, stretching every part of his body to protect his tryline. I still don't know how he did it.''
Gallen said Thurston was the best halfback he played with and could do freakish things but the reason he rated him so highly was because of his relentlessly competitive nature.
"On every play, and in every second of every match he was there competing. Sure, he had his misses, simply due to the power-to-weight ration of his opposition, but he was never afraid to bounce back up and go again.
"And nine times out of 10 he would beat up his opposition where it hurt most, on the scoreboard.''
Gallen restated his long held view that Smith was the best player he had played with.
"Cameron plays like the conductor of an orchestra. He is a ringmaster. He is always one step ahead. The way he tackles - he knows how to bend the rules.
"Cam gets away with more wrestling and niggling than any other play I have ever played with. I guess that is what makes him so brilliant.''