Three-try sensation Dane Gagai has revealed just how close he came to missing the XXXX Maroons’ series-clinching State of Origin victory in Game II at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium last night.
“At the start of the camp I was definitely in doubt,” said the Knights winger, who was battling a quad strain.
“It’s definitely something you don’t want to do but it had come to a point where I was considering going up to Kevie (coach Kevin Walters) and saying, ‘I don’t want to go out there and let the team down’.
“But the physios looked after me and I was grateful that Kevie gave me enough time to recover.
“And I was thankful for (Cowboys winger) Kyle Feldt coming in and helping me get through this too. He’s been playing great footy this year and he’s done great things. He’s won a grand final so if he had played I knew that there was no doubt that he wouldn’t have let the team down,” said the Mackay product, whose dad, Ray, was a Bronco in the late 80s.
Look behind you!
Gagai also relived his breathtaking opening four-pointer where he sprinted almost the length of the field only to be cut down short of the line by a surprise ankle tap from Tyson Frizell, before sliding over the tryline inches from the corner post.
“The lungs were burning,” he said of the sideline sprint to the line after gathering a lost Blues ball deep in his own half.
Gagai could see Blues winger Blake Ferguson closing in cover from the left but didn’t know big forward Frizell was in his slipstream.
“I was actually having a look at Ferguson and I saw the angle– I knew I was going to cross the line but little did I know I had big Tyson Frizell behind chasing and he ended up clipping my ankles.
“It was just fortunate I was close enough to the line.”
Knights’ horror run
Gagai said it had “crossed his mind” that the Knights’ lack of success this year (one win from 14 matches so far) might have cost him Origin selection.
“But whoever I’m playing for at the time they get my full attention. So when I’m at the Knights I’m just trying to do everything I can to get us in a position where we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“We’ve got a long way to go yet and I’m enjoying Nathan Brown as a coach. I can see what he’s doing, I’m sticking by what he’s doing.
“But once I come into camp then all my focus is on the Maroon jersey and doing everything I can to put the team in a winning position.”
Friend of the forwards
That focus doesn’t include “the glory stuff” like spectacular 80m footraces or three-try hauls, he said.
“I come into (Origin) games with the mindset of just trying to get as many carries as I can and just helping out these forwards as much as I can because the forward pack we have, and their defence, is second to none.
“They work so hard in the middle so I just do my best to give them a bit of a breather and take the pressure off them.”
Humble hat-trick hero
Despite five tries from his first three Origins, the finisher remains modest and generous in sharing credit.
“To be able to get a hat-trick at Suncorp Stadium - there’s no better feeling.
“It just goes to show what quality players who I’m playing around. They make it so much easier.”
You could see him lift: Thaiday
Team-mate Sam Thaiday after the match said: “The thing with Dane is his club team is not going overly great at the moment but he’s been toiling away and doing some hard work there and he got an opportunity to play for Queensland and when he put that jersey on you could really see him lift and you could really see him play a whole different style of footy.
“So I’m glad he’s in our team and I’m glad he scored three tries tonight,” Thaiday said. See the full Sam Thaiday interview.
Game III of the 2016 Origin series is on Wednesday, July 13, at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.