Ben Galea – Super League Heroes
Ben Galea was born in Parramatta, New South Wales in August 1978, and, like former Rovers team-mate Mick Vella, is of Maltese descent.
After being unable to make the first team squad at his local club, the Parramatta Eels, Galea moved to Balmain Tigers in 1999. The following season he made a few appearances for the newly-merged Wests Tigers team, mainly from the bench, but his real breakthrough was in 2001, when he became a regular member of the team and was named the club’s player of the year. Galea played in the second row alongside Mark O’Neill in Wests 2005 NRL grand final victory over the North Queensland Cowboys. He also played in Wests’ 2006 World Club Challenge defeat to Bradford Bulls. When Galea left the Tigers to join Rovers for the 2008 Super League season, he was their second most capped player with 150 games, and second highest try scorer, with 32 tries. In 2017, he was made a Wests Tiger Life Member.
Along with eight other new players, a then record number of debuts in a single match for the Robins, Galea made his debut in a 20-12 defeat at Leeds in February 2008. Two matches later, in a narrow away win against the Catalan Dragons, Galea opened his try-scoring account for Rovers when Chris Chester dummied and slipped the pass inside to him, and he shimmied his way past Clint Greenshields for what Rovers fans came to know as a trademark Galea try.
Forming an excellent second row partnership with countryman Clint Newton, Galea soon became an integral part of Rovers side, and he played a huge role in helping the Robins to a top four finish in 2009. He scored nine tries that season – seven in a purple patch that included two second half efforts that helped Rovers to a thrilling 36-28 Magic Weekend win over Warrington. He was an ever-present in 2011, and when Mick Vella departed at the end of that season, incoming coach Craig Sandercock turned to the 33-year old as his captain.
Uncharacteristically, Galea missed the first ten games of that campaign due to injury, but his return led to an upsurge in the team’s form, and after a sixth win in seven league games, at Huddersfield, Rovers looked well capable of making the play-offs. At that point, it was announced that Galea would be released at the end of the season, and, whether coincidentally or not, Rovers slumped, and won only one of their last ten games.
Ben Galea’s last game for Rovers was certainly a memorable one. Wigan, looking for the win that would guarantee the League Leaders’ Shield, were already 14-0 down when Galea marked his final game at Craven Park with another typical try, Craig Hall and Michael Dobson combined to allow him to come in on the angle at speed and race over. When Jake Webster the scored four minutes from the break and Dobson converted both, Rovers led 26-0. It seemed too good to last, and it was. Wigan pulled back 12 points before the break, and although Rovers held a 20-point lead early in the second half, and by ten on the hour, the Warriors showed their class and spoiled the party. Galea’s last game in a Rovers jersey was an anti-climax, with Rovers losing after scoring forty points for the second time in their history – 48-42 away to London Broncos.
Ben Galea, not tall by modern second row standards at 5 feet 10 inches, but playing with a wholehearted determination and intelligence that made him a huge favourite at Craven Park, made 126 appearances for the Robins, mainly in the back row of the forwards, but occasionally at off-half, and just three from the bench, scoring 36 tries. His worth was summed up by a Wests follower years later, when he said that Galea was the, ‘Unsung hero of the team that won the 05 Premiership, and was a huge loss when he left for the UK’, going on to praise his great work ethic – from which Rovers profited over the five years he was at the club.
By the time he left Rovers, Hull FC coach Peter Gentle had persuaded his former Wests colleague to join him at the KC for one final season, which he did before hanging up his boots in 2013. Subsequently returning to Australia, Galea worked for a spell as a video referee in the NRL.
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