Photo: Getty Images
Paul Gallen has been hailed as Cronulla's greatest-ever servant by coach Shane Flanagan as the Sharks skipper gears up for a record-equalling 18th NRL season.
He was expected to hang up his boots at the end of 2017 but the evergreen Gallen this week penned a one-year contract extension which see him play on in 2018.
Gallen, who turns 36 next month, will become the game's second oldest player when he finally does his last lap next year, behind only Cliff Lyons who retired just shy of his 38th birthday.
Gallen and teammate Luke Lewis will play their 18th seasons next year - an amazing achievement when viewed in light of the fact that since 1908 only fellow Sharks great Andrew Ettingshausen has played 18 years of first grade.
"For me, he's the best player the club's ever had and the club's had some great players," Flanagan said.
"ET (Ettingshausen), (Greg) Pierce, Gavin Miller and so on.
"But for Gal to play in that position through this era, he has been fantastic.
"There's been some tough times as well and he's led from the front week in and week out. He's just shown what an athlete he is.
"He's No.2 on the metres carried (this season) and we're lucky to have him."
Photo: Getty Images
Barring injury or suspension, Gallen will bring up his 300-game milestone against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in a fortnight.
On that night the Sharks will run out with three 300-gamers in their 17 with Lewis and Chris Heighington also belonging to the illustrious club.
Gallen and Lewis have both elected to extend their careers however the Sharks are taking a wait-and-see approach as to whether Heighington, 35, will be offered another year.
Flanagan says they will wait until the end of the season to gauge whether he is ready to go around again.
"You've got to treat everyone on their own merits," Flanagan said.
"That's what we'll do with Chris, he's been a great player for the Wests Tigers and for this club. He's won two competitions.
"With players like that we've just got to make sure they don't go a year too long. Luke and Gal are different situations and Chris might go again, I'm not quite sure."
Paul Gallen Mic'd Up
Video: Fox Sports
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