Gallen to play with painkillers while Sharks sweat on Fifita
Paul Gallen will play with pain-killing injections and Andrew Fifita will be given until the last minute to shake off a hamstring injury as Cronulla look to break Penrith hearts again.
Rookie coach John Morris, whose first five weeks in Cronulla's top job have featured no shortage of big stars breaking down with big injuries, was glad to welcome back his inspirational leader, but was not as certain about Fifita's availability.
The last time the Sharks met the Panthers, Morris was wearing the blue trainer's shirt and celebrating an epic one-point win in last year's semi-final at Allianz Stadium.
The Moore Park ground has since been demolished and Shane Flanagan sacked. Now Morris is quickly learning how to cope on the run with injuries.
Matt Moylan (hamstring) and Aaron Woods (foot) have already joined Wade Graham (knee) in the rehab group, while Shaun Johnson and Josh Dugan have had their share of niggles.
"'Gal' should be definitely right, he busted his rib cartilage, he had it against the Titans, played with it against the Cowboys, stirred it up so was no chance last week,'' Morris told the Herald.
"He was in pain. He couldn't even have his kids sitting on his lap.
"I left it up to him until game day last weekend, I thought he might still be able to play, but he said, 'mate, it kills me to pull out'.
"But I think he'll be right.
"Andrew does need to be checked tomorrow, he did some modified running today and we want to be careful with the hamstring.
"Knowing Andrew, he'll be '60/40'. He's durable, and had what we thought were some bad injuries in the past, but he responds well.
"The five-day turnaround might beat him. If he had seven or an eight-day turnaround, I'd say definitely, but we'll make the call. Thursday was the first time he's run all week.''
Morris was given the nod for the Sharks job over Cameron Ciraldo, the young gifted assistant who will be seated next to Ivan Cleary in the visitor's box on Thursday night.
The 38-year-old Morris said balancing the roster on top of the mounting injuries had made for a tough initiation.
Not long after Ava Seumanufagai was released to join Leeds – and became the player moved on so Cronulla could become cap compliant this season – fellow prop Woods broke his foot.
The club are also close to registering an NRL deal for James Segeyaro, with the drawn-out process proving a blessing for the hooker to complete a pre-season he never had over the summer while unsigned.
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