Paul Gallen us getting his face on the club merch.
Paul Gallen us getting his face on the club merch.

Sharks gift Gal bizarre tribute jersey

IT'S been one of those years where Australia's winter codes have as usual produced some ugly football jerseys all in the name of merchandising.

It kicked of with the AFL's Western Bulldogs Thor-inspired guernsey and plenty thought that would be the worst effort.

But the NRL's Cronulla Sharks have said hold our beer with their tribute to retiring great Paul Gallen.

This weekend Cronulla players will wear jerseys adorned with Gallen's image as farewells begin for one of the most durable NRL retiring classes of recent times.

The NRL will lose more than 2400 games of experience to retirements at the end of the season, including 300-gamers Cooper Cronk, Robbie Farah, John Sutton and Gallen.

Warhorse Matt Scott, veteran fullback Michael Gordon and evergreen journeymen like Jeremy Latimore and Blake Ayshford will also finish up, while Greg Inglis was forced to end his career earlier this year.

We’re not sure how we feel about this one.
We’re not sure how we feel about this one.

James Maloney and Gareth Widdop then sit atop a list of players leaving the NRL for England, with neither of them likely to return.

Combined, the NRL's departures account for 164 Tests for top-tier nations, 131 State of Origins and 17 premierships.

Cronk and Gallen's official farewells will come this week, with the pair to play their last regular season home matches at the SCG and Pointsbet Stadium respectively.

Scott will be honoured in Townsville, although it seems unlikely he will play another game for North Queensland after suffering a minor stroke last weekend.

Other players will then be in the spotlight before their home games in round 25. But it is 38-year-old Gallen's farewell against Canberra that will likely trigger the most emotion this week as his 19 seasons there come to a close.

Matthew Scott has likely played his last game. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)
Matthew Scott has likely played his last game. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

Sharks players will wear a jersey with the image of Gallen lifting the club's maiden premiership trophy, with a long list of his achievements alongside it.

Gallen is the Sharks' most-capped player with 345 appearances. After a barren opening decade of his career, he won a World Cup with Australia in 2013, captained NSW to a drought-breaking Origin series win 2014 and clinched the Sharks' title in 2016.

"I know the club has got a few things up their sleeves to honour it" Cronulla coach John Morris said.

"I hope we fill the place out for our greatest-ever Shark in terms of games played.

"He has meant everything to this club over his career. I just hope we can honour it with a big game and good performance.

"Typical Gal, he doesn't want it about him. He just wants to win. As a team we have to team we have to dig deep and we've got to with Canberra coming."

The Roosters will honour Cronk at the SCG, although the five-time premiership winner will have at least two more games at the ground in the finals.

NRL'S RETIRING CLASS OF 2019

Cooper Cronk (Sydney Roosters) - 368 games Paul Gallen (Cronulla) - 345 John Sutton (South Sydney) - 331 Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers) - 302 Matt Scott (North Queensland) - 268 Greg Inglis (South Sydney) - 263 Michael Gordon (Gold Coast) - 259 Jeremy Latimore (St George Illawarra) - 181 Blake Ayshford (Warriors) - 173 David Gower (Parramatta) - 117 Nathan Ross (Newcastle) - 60 Kaysa Pritchard (Parramatta) - 47 NOTABLE ENGLAND-BOUND STARS James Maloney (Penrith) - 245 Gareth Widdop (St George Illawarra) - 193 George Burgess (South Sydney) - 147 Sosaia Feki (Cronulla) - 146 Manu Ma'u (Parramatta) - 111

-With AAP