Cronulla Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said despite the demand for him and All Blacks forward Sonny Bill Williams to lock horns in the boxing ring, he's all but ruled out any chance of it happening this summer.
Gallen, who'll fight New Zealand Warriors forward Bodene Thompson in Auckland next Tuesday, repeated his desire to take on Williams, who has excelled in the NRL, rugby union and, in 2013, he won the WBA international heavyweight title by defeating former South African world champion Frans Botha.
The 34-year-old said the public has made it clear they want the Trans-Tasman stoush - and he's keen to grant them their wish.
"It's what we want to do, it's where we want to get to," said Gallen of the goal. "But it's not going to happen this preseason. Who knows if it'll happen or not but I do know it's [a fight] a lot of people want to see."
The NSW State of Origin captain doesn't intend to bait Williams with insults or wise-cracks, preferring to instead reveal why he deserves respect, especially for his efforts in the ring.
"It's easy for people to throw mud at Sonny because he's such a big name but he's fought some pretty good fighters," he said.
"I know Francois Botha was 45 at the time of their fight but experience in boxing - as I've learned - is huge, and he beat him.
"And the last bloke he fought, [American] Chauncy Welliver had 70-odd fights and while he didn't look the part [he was overweight] he could play it. But, in saying all that, whether Sonny wants to fight me is a question you'd need to ask him. Hopefully it happens but I do know I have to keep winning for it to have any chance of coming off."
That means Gallen, who is ranked by Boxrec behind Lucas Browne, Solomon Haumono and Mark de Mori as Australia's No.21 ranked heavyweight, must beat Thompson - a tough 27-year-old Kiwi league international who is renowned for his fitness. "I'm certainly not taking Bodene for granted," Gallen said.
"One thing I know about footy players is we're all very competitive, we're all very proud and he's not going out there to lay down.
He's also a southpaw, which is different for me. I've been sparring with a couple of blokes, one is a southpaw who is a young amateur, and he probably moves around a bit too well because Bodene and I are both footy players and we're going to stand there and throw punches at each other.
"I know Bodene is going to be very strong, and the message I get from everyone is he'll be very fit and ready for it."
Gallen's preparation for the bout was hampered by the ankle injury he suffered in Cronulla's preliminary loss to North Queensland but he described his last few weeks of training as rewarding".
"It hasn't hindered the way I've prepared for the fight," he said. The forward's contract with Cronulla allows for him to box until January 31 and while he wants other bouts over the summer he revealed it was proving difficult to find promotions to fight on.