You don't have to like Paul Gallen. You don't even have to respect him.
What you can't deny is the game needs him and players like him: adored by some, reviled by others, a reporter's dream.
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Gallen says Thaiday got off lightly
Paul Gallen has told 2KY radio's Big Sports Breakfast he believes Sam Thaiday was lucky to escape with just a two week suspension for his spear tackle in Origin II.
The NRL was loath to issue a breach notice to the NSW and Sharks captain on Tuesday for bringing the game into disrepute following his remarks on Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast that morning because it knows Gallen can generate publicity more than any other current player.
Co-hosting with Michael Slater, your humble correspondent sent down a tame half volley on off stump: so how's your head after Sam Thaiday dropped you on it in Origin II?
"I'm not one to bag players or get involved in the judiciary process … but the fact he got two weeks for that I think is very lucky," Gallen said. "For me that's the definition of a spear tackle. It's called a dangerous throw these days but I was in a deadset spear position, I was vertically upside-down. Thankfully, I come out of it OK and I'm not hurt because you don't have to look back too far to see those things go wrong."
Gallen is right.
The NRL has made many noises about protecting players since Alex McKinnon's life-changing neck injury. It's talked about the danger of shoulder charges and playing on when concussed. Then a player is speared headfirst into the ground and the offender gets two matches?
"I think it depends on who it was done on, I really do," Gallen continued. "Wade Graham told me in his judiciary process when he was in there all the talk from the prosecutor was the fact it was Johnathan Thurston.'I think he's very lucky': Paul Gallen is spear tackled by Sam Thaiday. Photo: Getty Images
"Now if that wasn't Johnathan Thurston, I have a feeling Wade Graham wouldn't have been charged. I certainly think it comes down to who the player is at times, I really do."
And Gallen crunches it through the covers for four!
In other words, Gallen reckons Graham was only suspended from playing in Origin II because his high tackle was on the game's best playmaker. He's also saying Thaiday would've been suspended for longer if the player being face planted into Suncorp Stadium turf wasn't Paul Gallen.
The remarks sailed so close to the wind of a reprimand that many officials from other clubs expected Integrity Unit boss Nick Weeks to dispatch a breach notice before the sun went down.
In essence, Gallen has accused the match review committee of bias; that there is one set of rules for some players and another for others, namely him and his Cronulla teammate.
The NRL took no action, although it did contact Gallen to remind him about "the rules in respect of the match review committee".
Earlier in his career, Gallen barely had a voice.
On the 2009 Four Nations tour of England and France, he was the only Australian player who refused to be interviewed by the reporters travelling with the team. All he would offer was a snarl in the foyer.
Earlier that year, Gallen had been fined $10,000 for a racist remark levelled at Dragons forward Mickey Paea. He considered the fine and the criticism he received to be excessive.
In recent years he's positioned himself as one of the code's strongest and honest voices, whether it's for Channel Nine, Triple M or the Big Sports Breakfast.
All of these are paid gigs. With retirement beckoning, having an opinion is now as much his job as tackles made and metres gained.
Paid or not, whatever he says feeds the machine.
Former ARL powerbrokers John Quayle and Ken Arthurson knew the value of publicity. Any publicity, good or bad.
If there wasn't any news of the day, they'd find some and it would invariably find its way on the back of a major metropolitan newspaper the next morning, burying the other codes inside the book.
The NRL isn't run by football people any longer, so it doesn't roll like that – and it doesn't have to.
There's barely a senior or retired player in the game who doesn't have a media deal stitched up.
And that's where former coach, commentator and Fairfax columnist Phil Gould comes in, because he's paid to have an opinion and doesn't mind voicing or writing it when asked, too.
Gould's comments while sitting on a Channel Nine panel after Origin II about the "selfishness around this camp and this team and the leadership group" after NSW's loss to Queensland continue to echo.
"This is the thing guys, what does this mean?" Gallen said on Tuesday morning. "It's a very open-ended statement about us being selfish. Are we trying to justify the way we play? Are we selfish at training? On the field? We don't know. I was talking to [NSW hooker] Robbie Farah about it and he doesn't know. We need some clarity around what he means. I'm not going to say I'm selfish or a prick … I think the only people who can judge me on that is my teammates and coaches and they're the ones who should be asked the question."
Blues hooker Benny Elias reckoned Gould's remarks were "disgraceful". Most of the former NSW players I've spoken to said Gus' remarks were spot-on.
What's irritated several of them is Gallen's declaration in March that this would be his final Origin series. Their argument is a player doesn't pick and chose when he comes and goes from Origin. That's for others to decide.
Gould's "selfish" comments aren't altogether breaking news, either.
He said last year that Gallen should not be picked for NSW because he blunts the side's attack by calling for the ball too much.
Should the pair bury the hatchet? Hell no.
Rugby league has thrived on hate and fear and loathing for more than a hundred years, so why stop now? It feeds the machine.
And it would be a surprise if Gould could care less about burying anything with Gallen anyway. He's paid to have an opinion – just like Gallen. Should be interesting if Gallen re-signs with Nine next year and the pair are on the same post-Origin panel.
Liz from Campbelltown doesn't get paid for her opinion but she called in soon after Gallen spoke to get something off her chest.
"Nobody's bigger than the game and this man thinks he's bigger than the game wanting his farewell in the last game," she said. "He didn't have his mind on the job [in game two]. He had his mind on Paul Gallen."
Seems like all of us do.