INSPIRATIONAL Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has begun talks aimed at extending his stay in the Sutherland Shire.
The Sun-Herald can reveal that when Sharks officials meet Gallen's manager, David Riolo, next week, one of the items on the agenda will be ensuring the Blues skipper finishes his NRL career where it started.
''We've started talks about me being a Shark for life,'' Gallen said last night. ''It's something that I'll definitely look at. My manager is meeting with the Sharks next week and that's one of the things that will be brought up.''
Gallen is the heart and soul of the Sharks. The Australian lock, who turns 30 this week, has played his entire first-grade career with the club and recently marked 10 years of NRL service.
''We'd love Paul to play out the rest of his career with the Sharks,'' Cronulla football manager Darren Mooney said. ''He's a player we can build our future around and we'll be doing everything we can to make sure he finishes here.''
Gallen added that the talks so far were informal and in their early stages. He is contracted until the end of 2013 but Sharks officials believe he could play on beyond that date.
According to TAB Sportsbet, his presence is worth five points a game to his side. It's an amazing rating for a forward and puts him after only North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston as the NRL's most influential player.
He is also one of the toughest and most admired players in the game, having cleaned up his image without losing his hard edge. Gallen, who played all 80 minutes of Origin II in the unaccustomed position of lock forward, has been rewarded with the Sharks and Blues captaincy.
Gallen had threatened to walk out at the end of the 2009 season admitting he was ''disappointed'' and ''frustrated'' and was linked to Wests Tigers and Manly. Those issues were resolved and he signed a four-year deal. Cronulla officials hope to add an extra year or two to the tally, but are mindful of not prematurely trumpeting a potential signing, given they were gazumped by Newcastle in their quest to sign Kade Snowden earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Newcastle say they won't be complacent against Canberra today and expect the Raiders to be even more dangerous now they've officially dropped out of the finals race.
After their stunning win over St George Illawarra two weeks ago, the Green Machine believed a miracle play-off run was possible, but after last round's crushing loss to the Warriors that dream has been extinguished.