St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says he expects Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen to make an earlier-than-expected return from injury when the two sides clash on Sunday.
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Gallen missed Game I of State of Origin for New South Wales after suffering gluteus maximus tear and hip bruising.
The 33-year-old has also missed the Sharks’ past four games and his return would come as a major boost for Shane Flanagan’s side as they look to continue their rich vein of form.
With Origin II looming next month, McGregor said he fully expected Gallen to feature in the local derby this weekend.
“Without a doubt I do expect [Gallen] to play. It’s coming up to his time of the year with Origin and he’s a great leader so I’m sure his team needs him at the moment and that he’ll roll himself out there to play,” McGregor is quoted as saying by NRL.com.
“I think their experienced forward pack, and the fact I think Gal will play, with the likes of Lewis, Fifita and co. have some really big game experience there too so they’ll know what they need to bring in the physical clash that it will be in the local derby.
“I think for us though it’s about us, which is the most important thing. We can prepare the best we can to get the result, but we respect Cronulla too. I respect every one of their players and they certainly have a lot of good things going for them.”
The Sharks (10th) face a tough test against the third-placed Dragons, who have dropped just three of their ten matches this season.