Gagai happy with life balance
Boom Newcastle Knights centre Dane Gagai has a lot to be thankful for in his career to date.
Released by the Brisbane Broncos in 2012 after several mishaps, 23-year-old Gagai has finally attained a much-needed life balance in Newcastle as he readies himself for his 50th Knights appearance this weekend.
While much has been made of his early-years indiscretions while a part of the Queensland emerging squad, Gagai's balance off the field is starting to finally pay dividends on it in what is only his second full season in the NRL.
"My main focus is just on the Newcastle Knights and giving everything I have for these boys. To let anything I personally do affect the team wouldn't be right and I'll feel like I'm letting myself down, letting my team down and letting my family down - and that's what I'm not about," Gagai said.
"Having Wayne [Bennett] here is great. He has inspired me as a footy player and also off the field. I'm getting a bit more organisation in my life and I'm feeling happier and I'm enjoying my football."
"I'm still trying to develop as a player and as a person in my game and things away from the field to become the best player I possible can be on the field."
While the Brisbane Wests junior doesn't hide his representative aspirations, Gagai admitted that he is still a work in progress despite producing eight electric line breaks, 63 tackle breaks (third in the NRL) and 147.1 metres per game this season.
"I'm definitely pleased with my development. I'm still learning a lot... but it makes it a lot easier when you have the older and wiser players around you," Gagai said.
"With the likes of Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott, Willie Mason and Chris Houston around it's just good to have a great leadership group there to learn a lot from."
With Gagai playing an influential role in crossing for a brace of tries in Newcastle's 36-28 win over the Cowboys last Monday night, the focus has now shifted to the Parramatta Eels this Sunday as he and his club look towards securing only their fourth win of the season.
"We went out there [against the Cowboys] with a game plan and executed it and that's what got us over the line," Gagai said.
"Our effort has never been questioned with any player in this side, everyone's come out of every game busted and sore after giving everything... and we showed what we could do and hopefully we can pull it off against Parra," Gagai said.
"It was a good feeling being able to belt our team song and to get the win but the game has passed now and we'll now turn up to training because we know we have another job this weekend."
While the team song was a long time coming for Newcastle after winning their first game in over 70 days against the Cowboys, the Knights and Gagai will be looking to make amends in more ways than one in their final 10 games of the season.