Paul Gallen in awkward on-air gaffe after Sunia Turuva's $500k Panthers statement

Gallen's gaffe came after a stunning statement from gun Penrith winger, Sunia Turuva.

Paul Gallen had a moment to forget on Thursday night during commentary duties for Penrith's stunning victory against the Sydney Roosters. Even without their inspirational captain and halfback Nathan Cleary, the Panthers were too good for the Tri Colours, with young flyer Sunia Turuva scoring his first NRL hat-trick in the 22-16 victory.

The match was somewhat overshadowed by a controversial Bunker decision that saw the Roosters denied a try for obstruction when Jared Waerea-Hargreaves collided with Penrith's Dylan Edwards, before Joey Manu put the ball down over the try line. NRL head of football Graham Annesley confirmed on Friday that the try should have stood after viewers were left raging over the incident.

On the left is NRL great Paul Gallen and Penrith star Sunia Turuva on the right.
Paul Gallen's on-air blunder came after a stunning hat-trick for Penrith star Sunia Turuva in the NRL. Pic: Getty

It wasn't the only eye-opening moment involving Waerea-Hargreaves on Thursday night, with Gallen mistakenly describing it as the veteran's milestone 300th game during Channel Nine's post-match wash-up. The NRL great was interviewing James Tedesco, but had to be corrected by the Roosters captain after asking about the team's feelings on Waerea-Hargreaves's 'milestone' game.

"And what about big Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 300 games tonight, a little bit disappointed, what's he meant to this club?" Gallen asked. Tedesco quickly shot back: "Last week, his 300th game," forcing Gallen into an embarrassing U-turn. "I'm sorry I thought it was this week, my bad, what's he meant to the club though," the Sharks legend said after pushing on with the original question.

Paul Gallen crucified over Jared Waerea-Hargreaves gaffe

The embarrassing gaffe did not go unnoticed by NRL fans, with Gallen copping a wave of backlash from fans. It was a particularly glaring mistake considering the week of fanfare that accompanied Waerea-Hargreave before last round's showdown against fierce rivals South Sydney, and the Roosters' thumping 48-6 win.

Sunia Turuva scores hat-trick in big Penrith statement

Turuva was on screen during Gallen's awkward slip-up as the Panthers flyer celebrating his stunning three-try haul for the depleted Panthers, who were also missing James Fisher-Harris and Scott Sorensen, as well as Cleary. The hat-trick heroics from Turuva proved the difference for Penrith and came as a timely reminder after reports he could be forced out of the club due to salary cap constraints.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported before Thursday night's match that Turuva could be on his way out of the club because the Panthers can only offer him around $350,000-a-season, having recently tied down fellow outside backs Izack Tago and Taylan May. The 2023 Dally M Rookie of the Year could realistically command more like $500,000 per year at a rival club, with Thursday night's performance against the Roosters providing an emphatic demonstration of his quality.

Pictured right is NRL legend Andrew and Penrith's Sunia Turuva on left.
NRL legend Andrew Johns says he hopes Sunia Turuva stays at Penrith amid reports he could leave due to salary cap constraints. Pic: Getty

Speaking before the game on Thursday night, rugby league 'Immortal' Andrew Johns suggested Turuva would be better turning down rival interest and what would be a significant amount of money, to stay with the defending premiers. "If I was Turuva, I wouldn't be leaving, put it that way," Johns said on Nine's pre-game coverage. "He's playing outside a pretty good backline. It's easier to turn up to training when you're winning. I hope he doesn't leave."

Turuva is off contract at the end of this season and could be the latest in a succession of stars to depart Penrith after winning a premiership. The Panthers have already lost the likes of Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Api Koroisau, Viliame Kikau, Stephen Crichton and Spencer Leniu since winning the first of their three straight grand finals from 2021.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said in his post-match press conference that the premiers would love to keep their speedy winger, who was a constant menace for the Roosters' left edge defence on Thursday night. But the Penrith coach admitted he was "not too sure" where the club was at with Turuva's contract extension talks amid suggestions he could leave the club for a bigger deal at the end of the season.