FORMER Maroon Ben Ross says he is deeply concerned for his good mate Paul Gallen's mental state following the New South Wales skipper's latest controversy.
Gallen took a swipe at the NRL on social media last week after Cronulla chief executive Steve Noyce was made redundant, tweeting, "Steve Noice (sic) actually cared about players from Cronulla's feelings. Couldn't say that about any other c**t from Nrl".
He was subsequently fined $50,000 by the NRL and banned from playing for Australia next season unless he undertook a leadership course.
The NRL is understood to be putting pressure on the NSW Rugby League to strip him of the Blues captaincy.
It is the latest blow after a turbulent two years for Gallen, who is among the Cronulla players serving a ban after a well-documented investigation into the club's supplement program.
Ross, who played alongside Gallen for six seasons at the Sharks, said he was extremely worried for his friend's mental wellbeing.
"The media won't stop relenting about the Twitter comments and the $50,000 fine, but I am more worried about his mental health and the health of his family," he said.
"He has got two young kids and one on the way.
"The stresses for the whole family, let alone how he is feeling, is taking a toll on him, but people don't seem to be talking about that.
"I just hope he is okay."
Ross has been in constant contact with Gallen via text messages to make sure his mate knows his friends have his back.
"He is a family man and one of the most kind-hearted fellas you will ever come across," Ross said.
"People don't know that he goes by himself to hospitals to see kids, which he does week in, week out.
"Some of the other boys wait until the papers are around, but not Gal."
Gallen has publicly admitted to his battles with depression, but is yet to use that as an excuse for his Twitter slip-up.
"What's done is done and he apologised and I believe he truly meant it," Ross said.
"You have got to remember that he has copped two years of absolute pain and he probably went through more than anyone because the media targeted him."
Ross said although he did not condone Gallen's comments on Twitter, he believed the massive pressure the Sharks skipper was under should be taken into account.
"I suppose you never really like to say that to your boss, but there are underlying factors that have obviously finally got to him," Ross said.
"He is a true leader and doesn't captain his team, his state and his country for no reason .
"Everyone who knows him rates him very highly as a person."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.