Paul Gallen said learning to enjoy rugby again has been key to Cronulla Sharks' turnaround as they prepare to face Melbourne Storm in the NRL Grand Final.
Paul Gallen said learning to enjoy rugby again has been key to Cronulla Sharks' turnaround as they prepare to take on Melbourne Storm in the NRL Grand Final on Sunday.
Cronulla beat defending champions North Queensland Cowboys 32-20 in the preliminary finals last weekend to seal a place in the end-of-season showpiece, just two years after finishing bottom of the table.
The Sharks were sixth in the NRL in 2015 but were knocked out by the Cowboys in the semi-finals, with the additions of the likes of James Maloney and Chad Townsend key in Cronulla taking the next step this term.
Captain Gallen told reporters: "You start your career playing in semi-finals and playing in the grand final qualifier when I was 20 years old, you just think it's going to happen and the history of club shows we've had some pretty tough times but I feel like we deserve to be here.
"It's a big opportunity for us, we've got to make the most of it Sunday.
"We built last year, we got all of that c**p [from 2014] out of our heads and just started to enjoy football again, come the start of this year our squad got even stronger, we had a goal to finish top four, that goal turned into trying to win the minor premiership and it turned into semi-final football and being there on grand final day, now it's just time to win it.
"It would mean a hell of a lot [to win it], I've been here for a long time, devoted my whole career to the club, the club's obviously never won one, we know that, it would mean a hell of a lot, it's not the be all and end all of my life or my career but it's a major part of it."
Cronulla will have home city advantage with the Grand Final taking place at ANZ Stadium in Sydney but Gallen does not believe that will impact the game.
He added: "I don't think it matters, Melbourne are a pretty experienced side, played in a lot of semi-final football, a lot of grand finals.
"I think the crowd will be pro-Cronulla, no doubt about that, fingers crossed if that's any advantage we'll take it."