CRONULLA veteran Paul Gallen has been ruled out of Friday’s NRL preliminary final with Melbourne at AAMI Park due to a shoulder injury.
Despite Sharks coach Shane Flanagan saying the inspirational forward will be given until match day to prove his fitness for the grand final qualifier, the club confirmed his withdrawal late Thursday afternoon.
“After receiving treatment upon arrival in Melbourne and following further assessment by club medical staff, the early call was made to rule him out of match,” a club statement read.
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“While the improvement in the condition of his shoulder had been considerable over the past few days, the Friday kickoff to the prelim final will come too soon for the Sharks skipper.
“Should the Sharks beat the Storm and win their way through to the NRL grand final, medical staff are optimistic that Gallen would be cleared to play.”
Ahead of his team’s flight, Flanagan admitted Gallen was “against the odds” to play.
The lock’s fitness has improved significantly since he was taken from the field in last week’s one-point win over Penrith, and he took part in the Sharks’ captain’s run on Thursday.
But Flanagan said he wouldn’t have Gallen take the field against the Storm unless he was able to start and play big minutes.
The retiring Luke Lewis will assume the captaincy for what would be the last game of his career if the Sharks are beaten.
Josh Dugan is also expected to be fit, after Flanagan revealed the former NSW State of Origin star would be played on the wing if he is brought into the starting side.
Joseph Paulo will come into the Sharks’ 17 for his first final appearance after a 166 games in the NRL, while Aaron Woods would likely start in the middle.
Meanwhile, Storm coach Craig Bellamy remains unsure on the final make-up of his side with the coach tossing up whether to play Ryan Hoffman or Brandon Smith.
Hoffman, who has battled a hamstring injury late in the season, was been named on the bench for the game, but wasn’t played in the team’s qualifying final against Souths.
“When we played Souths it was hard to leave Hoff out from what he’s done for our game and our club,” Bellamy said.
“With him coming to the end of his career I know how much it means to him, but I’ve got a job to do and I’ve got to make sure I do my job the best I can.
“It wasn’t easy leaving Hoff out against Souths but it’s part of what we’ve got to do.”
Catch all the late mail for the 2018 preliminary finals below.
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park, 7:40pm (AEST)
Storm: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Suliasi Vunivalu, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Curtis Scott, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Jesse Bromwich, 9 Cameron Smith, 10 Tim Glasby, 11 Felise Kaufusi, 12 Joe Stimson, 13 Dale Finucane
Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 15 Christian Welch, 16 Ryan Hoffman, 17 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Reserves: 18 Brandon Smith, 19 Jahrome Hughes,
Players cut: 20 Sam Kasiano, 21 Cheyse Blair
Sharks: 1 Val Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Kurt Capewell, 20 Joseph Paulo
Interchange: 14 Scott Sorensen, 15 James Segeyaro 16 Aaron Woods 17 Jayson Bukuya
Reserves: 18 Josh Dugan, 21 Kyle Flanagan
Players cut: 13 Paul Gallen, 19 Ava Seumanufagai
Late mail: The Storm are being coy on their final line-up with Craig Bellamy unsure whether Ryan Hoffman or Brandon Smith will play off the bench. For the Sharks, Paul Gallen is out and will be replaced in the team by Joseph Paulo. Josh Dugan is tipped to play, while Luke Lewis will captain the team.
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium, 7:40pm (AEST)
Roosters: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Mitchell Aubusson, 4 Joseph Manu, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Luke Keary, 7 Cooper Cronk, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Jake Friend (c), 10 Siosiua Taukeiaho, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Isaac Liu, 13 Victor Radley
Interchange: 14 Lindsay Collins, 15 Zane Tetevano 16 Nat Butcher, 17 Ryan Matterson
Reserves: 18 Matt Ikuvalu, 19 Sean O’Sullivan, 20 Paul Momirovski, 21 Sitili Tupounia
Players cut: TBC
Rabbitohs: 1 Alex Johnston, 2 Campbell Graham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Dane Gagai, 5 Robert Jennings, 6 Cody Walker, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Tom Burgess, 9 Damien Cook, 10 George Burgess, 11 John Sutton, 12 Angus Crichton, 13 Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14 Hymel Hunt, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Jason Clark, 17 Dean Britt
Reserves: 18 Braidon Burns, 19 Mark Nicholls, 20 Tevita Tatola, 21 Connor Tracey
Players cut: TBC
Late mail: No changes are expected for the Roosters, with Blake Ferguson to assume kicking duties with Latrell Mitchell suspended and Siosiua Taukeiaho not at full fitness. For the Rabbitohs, it was reported by Wide World of Sports that Jason Clark rolled his ankle on Thursday at training but will be given until Friday to prove his fitness for what could be his final NRL game.
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