By STEVE MASCORD
AFTER another dismal day at strife-torn Cronulla, injured captain Paul Gallen insisted he would be back from an ankle injury in “three or four weeks” and dismissed the significance of Australia prop Andrew Fifita’s impending departure.
Going into the opening Monday Night Football match of 2014, it seemed things could only improve for the Sharks after their $1 million doping fine, the suspension of coach Shane Flanagan and injuries to Todd Carney (hamstring), Beau Ryan (neck), Chris Heighington (calf), Luke Lewis (shoulder), Anthony Tupou (knee) and Jeff Robson (cheekbone).
But by the end of the night, NSW skipper Gallen had been sidelined indefinitely by a syndesmosis injury to the right ankle, Gold Coast had come from behind to win 18-12 and Fifita had walked out of Remondis Stadium, cameras trailing him, without denying he had agreed to join Canterbury next season.
Fifita was also on report for a shoulder charge on David Mead.
“Something cracked – I knew I did something straight away,” Gallen said of his injury, suffered in a 31st minute tackle by Titan Matthew White. “I did it in trial game in 2006 or seven – it cracked twice – so I knew what it was straight away.
“I’m thinking I’d like to be back in three or four weeks … get a scan tomorrow and see what it says. I’m pretty confident it’s not going to be a long-term thing.”
Asked for his thoughts on Fifita’s departure, Gallen said: “I know the club will come very close to their offer. I don’t think it’s going to be chalk and cheese, the two offers.
“It’s just going to be up to where Andrew wants to play. He’s got a young family. You’ve got to do the best for yourself.
“Of course I’d be upset if he left. We’ve put a lot of work into him. He’s a great player and he’s played his best football here.
“In saying that, I remember three or four years ago when everyone thought the world was going to end when Luke Douglas and Kade Snowden left. I wouldn’t say them two boys have kicked on since they left and we’ve got six front rowers.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to pick up some other players – if he goes.”
The comment about Douglas came as the former Sharks prop broke a new premiership consective appearance record with 195 in the Titans victory, secured with a 71st minute William Zillman try.
Gold Coast had would-be touchdowns to hooker Beau Falloon (14th minute) and halfback Albert Kelly (42nd) chalked off but it was the try Kelly was awarded – when he took an intercept off his own line eight minutes before halftime – that angered the Sharks.
“I thought he was offside, I thought they were offside most of the night to tell you the truth,” said coach Peter Sharp.
There was also some controversy surrounding the concussion rule; stand-in Sharks captain Wade Graham called for Gold Coast winger Mead to be taken off for assessment after he stayed on the ground long enough for a penalty to be awarded.
“The bloke stayed down, they’ve had a check upstairs and they’ve found there was contact with the head,” said five-eighth Graham.
“I don’t know what the new five-point-plan is but obviously, staying down, there’s got to be an indication he’s hurt and if there’s head contact, it’s got to be something with the head. I was a bit confused by that.”
And Titans coach John Cartwright reckoned legislators had sped the game up too much this year.
“I think you’ve got to find a balance,” he said. “If you blow a lot of penalties, it is going to be a lot of dummy-half running. That’s where the easy yards are.”
GOLD COAST 18 (A Kelly G Bird W Zillman tries A Sezer 3 goals) bt CRONULLA 12 (T Arona try M Gordon goal) at Remonidis Stadium. Referees: J Maxwell/G Atkins. Crowd: 9321.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD