Paul Gallen is a proven Dream Team star, but is he worth the money now that he might not play 80 minutes a week?
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NRL DREAM TEAM: He's one of the NRL's toughest workhorses, but is the Sharks skipper worth the money in 2013?
Positions: Second row, front row
Price: $514,500* (based on a possible salary cap of $5.8 million)
Last year's average: 65.4
Last year's high score: 104
Positives: Gallen is a Dream Team great, a tireless forward who can play 80 minutes, make his fair share of tackles and carry the ball for a mountain of metres. His Dream Team value only increased when tackle breaks were introduced as a scoring option last season.
In 2012 Gallen's average Dream Team score of 65.4 points a game was second only to Cameron Smith, and he was consistent too – his lowest score for the season was a solid 46, and he scored 70 or better on six occasions.
Gallen has also become a utility player, with the NSW prop given dual-position status in NRL Dream Team this season. That allows you to put Gallen in the front row and fit an extra big-scoring back-rower into your lineup, and gives you more trading flexibility down the track.
Negatives: The warning bells should have sounded for Dream Team fanatics when Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said at the end of last season that Gallen would be spending more time on the bench in 2013.
"He won't be playing 80 minutes week in week out, we've discussed that," Flanagan said. "We'll make sure he's fresh and firing at the end of the season and that we don't burn him out too much in the middle of the season."
Gallen missed a big chunk of 2012 through injury, Origin duty and post-Origin burn-out. That's part of a reason for Flanagan's rethink about his captain's role, but it also suggests Gallen is likely to be missing at times for the middle part of the season again.
Meanwhile the addition of Luke Lewis and Chris Heighington strengthens an already-strong forward pack at the Sharks, and the huge depth in the back row means Gallen is likely to be pushed to prop – meaning his running game will have more impact but he'll spend less time on the park. So even if his run metres tally doesn't drop in 2013, his weekly tackle counts might.
Risk rating: Even with a diminished role Gallen is likely to remain a strong Dream Team scorer; no player in the NRL works harder or is more determined, and the ever-improving Sharks team should only help Gallen's scoring. But he comes at a big cost, with his lofty price tag being based on his performances last season as a mostly 80-minute player. If he does spend some time on the bench you can expect his value to drop in the early part of the season, so consider picking him up a month or two into the campaign or even after the Origin period ends.
He's still no huge risk – the Origin workload and a slight drop in scores is the only fear – so on the risk scale we'll give him a rating of three out of five Matt Orfords*.
*BigPond Sport's patented risk scale ranks players out of five Matt Orfords, with five Orfords representing maximum risk and one Orford being a low-risk player.
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