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The moment when, after 348 games, Gallen realised career was over

After 348 games, father time had finally defeated the NRL’s oldest player.

Farewell: Sharks captain Paul Gallen acknowledges fans at Lottoland.

Farewell: Sharks captain Paul Gallen acknowledges fans at Lottoland.Credit:Getty Images

Manly played a major role in his ending, too, defying their depleted line-up to produce one of the bravest finals upsets in recent memory.

In 2014, Gallen was famously crowned Wally Lewis medallist after leading a courageous NSW to a drought-breaking State of Origin triumph.

But the 38-year-old was near powerless to stop this Sea Eagles’ ambush.

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He was substituted after 32 minutes with his team down 18-0, and curiously didn’t re-enter the game until Manly sealed victory with eight minutes left.

He finished with just 99 metres from 13 runs, with one offload and 18 tackles – a far cry from the dizzying numbers he delivered on a weekly basis in his prime.

“It’s all got to come to an end. I’ve had a terrific career. I’ve had a great time at this club. It is what it is … that’s it,” Gallen said post-game.

“Thanks very much the Sharkies fans. You’ve been unreal. You’ve shown me loyalty, I’ve shown you loyalty. Thanks for the past 20 years, Cronulla.”

Family affair: Gallen embraces his son after the match.

Family affair: Gallen embraces his son after the match.Credit:AAP

Sharks coach John Morris later revealed Gallen had struggled with a calf issue in the lead-up to the match, but was never going to rule him out.

“That was bothering him a bit going in, definitely,” Morris said.

“And I think he copped a whack on his shoulder as well, he’s bleeding from the head, so he copped a bit of a battering there.

“But that wouldn’t have worried him… He did have a bit going against him in the background, but he’s Paul Gallen. He’s had that his whole career.

“He manages to push through him without saying much. I’ll probably find out now he’s had a pretty decent injury that he was playing with.”

A three-time Dally M lock of the year, Gallen also bows out with 32 Tests for Australia and 24 State of Origin matches for NSW.

Gallen: One of the great Sharks

  • Makes NRL debut against Parramatta in round 15, 2001
  • 348 games in 19 seasons (most games for the Sharks, and outright sixth-most in NRL history), including 204 as Sharks skipper
  • Captained Sharks to maiden NRL premiership in 2016
  • 32 Tests for Australia
  • 24 State of Origin games for NSW, including a record 16 as captain
  • Wally Lewis medallist in 2014
  • Three-time Dally M lock of the year.

AAP

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