Love him or hate him, Gallen has the respect of his peers

BLUES WARHORSE: Paul Gallen of NSW is tackled by Cameron Smith and Matthew Gillett of Queensland during State of Origin Game I.
BLUES WARHORSE: Paul Gallen of NSW is tackled by Cameron Smith and Matthew Gillett of Queensland during State of Origin Game I. DEAN LEWINS

PAUL Gallen would be flat out finding someone to have a beer with in Queensland - even if he shouted.

Some of his barbs over the years, including calling Queensland rugby league supporters "two-headed", have made him Public Enemy No.1 north of the border.

However, one of his biggest rivals during his 15-year league career, Queensland and Australian captain Cameron Smith, says the despised cockroach is "not such a bad bloke" and a "wonderful" player.

As shown by former Queensland forward Billy Moore and New South Wales rival David Barnhill, who ripped into each other in one of Origin's wildest brawls, fiery battles can sometimes lead to lifelong friendships.

"There's always going to be people who say negative things about your career, and Gal has a few of those because he speaks his mind and plays it hard," Smith said when asked how he thought Gallen would be remembered.

"For mine, I think he has been a wonderful player for New South Wales for a long time."

High praise from someone who Gallen has gone into battle against 24 times in the toughest rugby league arena there is - State of Origin.

For the record, Smith has come out on top 15 times in those clashes. As rival captains since 2011, Smith has a 9-6 edge in matches won.

Smith appreciates Gallen's passion. As a captain of Queensland he understands why Gallen makes public comments designed to get under the skin of rabid Maroon supporters who have given him a tough time over the years, just as NSW fans did every time Wally Lewis ventured south of the border in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"I have played alongside him in the Australian team and I feel very lucky to have played alongside a guy like him," Smith said.

"I feel very fortunate to have a person like that in my (Australian) side. He's been a wonderful player for a long time.

"He does the hard work that probably gets overshadowed by things that other players do, but if you don't have Paul Gallen in your side, you usually struggle to win matches.

"That's how I will look back at his career."

Gallen has never walked away from a fight in his life, and he has played the "hate card" as well as anyone who has played Origin.

One of his best was in 2014 when he infuriated Queensland fans and "The King", Wally Lewis, when he publicly declared Queensland fans had two heads.

Lewis accused Gallen of being disrespectful, to which the NSW skipper responded: "I don't know Wally, so it's not holding a lot of weight with me.

"This is fun - this is part of the build-up to Origin. I was trying to explain (when making the comment) how fanatical Queenslanders are."

Gallen had the last laugh for once, with NSW finally ending Queensland's dominance by winning the first two games for their first series win since 2005.


Gallen is fortunate his farewell Origin is being played in Sydney in front of Blues fans.

If the game was at Suncorp Stadium, there would be 100,000 booing him.

Suncorp Stadium holds only 50,000, but remember, they all have two heads.

Topics:  cameron smith editors picks origin2016 paul gallen

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