Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has launched an extraordinary attack on his embattled NRL club, saying players are not giving their all because they’re under the impression that interim coach Peter Sharp isn’t.
Gallen vented his frustration on Sunday, saying the Sharks’ hierarchy had dismissed calls to bring in a new voice, which included the skipper’s suggestion of current Canberra assistant Brett Kimmorley.
Sharp has made it clear from the outset that he had no ambition to be a first-grade coach and was only reluctantly filling the void left when the NRL suspended incumbent Shane Flanagan over the club’s controversial 2011 supplement program.
Although sympathetic to Sharp’s predicament, Gallen indicated that his stated lack of enthusiasm for the role was picked up by the players and was contributing to Cronulla’s miserable season as they sit anchored to the bottom of the ladder.
“I don’t want to sit here and bag Sharpy because Sharpy has been thrown in the deep end … because he came out day one and said he doesn’t want the job,” Gallen told Triple M.
“To me players are like school kids. If you can turn up Monday and the coach isn’t going to rouse on you for not having a good game, I don’t think you’re going to put 100 per cent in.
“I think that’s been the problem throughout the year.
“I don’t think players have been putting 100 per cent in because they’re under the impression Sharpy isn’t putting 100 per cent in.
“I just think we’ve lacked direction there throughout the year.”
Asked would he support the club targeting someone like Kimmorley or Penrith under 20s coach Trent Barrett for the remaining 10 rounds, Gallen said he was happy with any solution which might save the Sharks from their first wooden spoon since 1969.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win some games,” he said.
With little time to celebrate leading NSW to a first State Origin series victory in nine years, Gallen now faces another almighty fight to rescue the Sharks – battling injuries and the ongoing ASADA saga – from finishing last.
Manly’s 26-0 drubbing at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night has already consigned Cronulla to an unwanted place in history as the first team ever to be kept scoreless for three consecutives matches.
Asked whether he regretted not taking up offers to join Manly in 2007 and 2010, Gallen said: “I wouldn’t say regret but I do think about it,” he said, given the Sea Eagles were premiers in both 2008 and 2011.
Even the return of seven first-graders, including Gallen, fellow State of Origin winner Luke Lewis and playmaker Todd Carney, couldn’t prevent the Sharks from conceding five unanswered tries to the table-topping Sea Eagles.
Gallen said with the “spine” of the side being unable to train together in the lead-up, it felt “like a rabble out there” against the Eagles.
“I can’t imagine what the fans think,” he said.
“For us now, everyone has to have pride in their individual performance for the rest of the year and one thing we don’t want to do is win the wooden spoon.
“That would be an embarrassment for myself and for the club.”