After a stellar 19 seasons career in the NRL, Sharks stalwart Paul Gallen has announced that 2019 will be his final year as a professional rugby league player. While we should embrace and enjoy Gallen's swansong, it does beg the question of who takes over the number 13 jersey that Gallen has had a mortgage on since he debuted in 2001.
Having gone after North Queensland behemoth Jason Taumalolo and now Rooster Angus Crichton in recent years, it seems that Cronulla will now be looking in house to replace the legendary Gallen when he retires at the end of the 2019 season.
Following an inspection of Cronulla's current roster, I have trimmed my list down to three player's who could potentially fill Gallen's enormous boots from 2020 onwards.
Firstly, Kurt Capewell. Tall and mobile for a man of his size, Kurt Capewell has cemented himself in the Sharks' team since joining the Shire based outfit following a Queensland Cup triumph with the Ipswich Jets in 2015. Possessing the ability to play anywhere from the middle to the centres, Capewell has proven himself to be a valuable asset for Cronulla in recent seasons.
While he has displayed the ability to perform in the middle following stints off the bench, it is on the edge that he seems most comfortable, marauding and looking to penetrate holes with his incisive running lines.
Secondly, Scott Sorensen. Local junior Sorensen has been the Sharks' resident Mr. Fix it since returning from his one season in Canberra in 2017. Similarly to Capewell, Sorensen has cemented himself as a regular feature off the bench for Cronulla thanks to his ability to cover multiple positions.
However, he too looks most comfortable on an edge, utilising his broad frame and impressive footwork late at the line to beat tackles, but since he has not locked down a position since his return South, Gallen's retirement could be the foot in the door the 26-year old needs.
While my final proposal is by far the least experienced of the three, this is the man I would hand Gallen's jersey to. Little known apart from to the most devout Sharks fan, that player is Billy Magoulias. While Cronulla has previously gone to the market in order to replace the outgoing Gallen, they may have already had his clone sitting under their noses in the form of local junior Magoulias. Listed as 179 cm and 104 kg, Magoulias' frame is strikingly similar to that of the 180 cm, 105 kg Gallen.
Having progressed from the NYC, to the Under 20s State of Origin to playing for Newtown in the Intrust Super Premiership Grand Final last year, Magoulias' rise has been steady.
Described on the Sharks' website as a lock, sometimes five-eighth, Magoulias displays the same hunger for tackles and run metres through his high work rate as his predecessor Gallen but has another string to his bow in the form of his clever passing game.
Much like now-Dragons prop James Graham was utilised under Des Hasler at the Bulldogs as a ball-playing forward at the line, Magoulias has displayed the ability to perform the same role.
When asked by NRL.com in early 2018 about who could take over from Gallen when he eventually retired, now sacked Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan anointed the Cronulla Caringbah junior Magoulias.
"Billy Magoulias, he's a very, very similar type of player to Gal when he was a bit younger," Flanagan told NRL.com.
"He's got some ball-playing like Gal did at the start of his career, and he likes the rough stuff and the contact too.
"He could be the one for us with that position eventually."
Having only just turned 22, Magoulias has always stepped up when presented the opportunity at the next level, and with the retirement of the G-train on the horizon, that opportunity could come sooner rather than later.
Jayson Bukuya is the man to replace Gal as lock , he plays in the middle and has a useful offload in traffic like Gal .
Sorensen and Nikora are my 2nd rowers with Capewell filling the bench spot .
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