Injured Gagai speechless after brave win
Explosive Knights centre Dane Gagai didn't know what to say. With two remarkable wins chalked up in a matter of three weeks, the 23-year-old was unsure how to portray his feelings following the Knights’ last-ditch 32-30 win over a Melbourne Storm side looking to solidify a spot in the top four.
Down 24-14 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, it was the pure instinct of Gagai that allowed him to power his way over to score a vital try from dummy half. On top of that, the centre also contributed to the match-winning play by throwing the final pass for Akuila Uate's try after the fulltime siren had sounded.
While the adrenalin by game's end would have had him ignoring the pain, a quad injury almost derailed one of Gagai's biggest career highlights thus far and it wasn’t until after the warm-up that Gagai was ruled a certainty to play with Pat Mata'utia called into the team as 18th man.
Regardless of the courageous effort shown by Gagai, he played down any individual achievement and directed praise towards the efforts and the spirit shown by his teammates.
"I can't really describe the feeling. Obviously it felt good scoring but I wouldn't have scored that try if the boys hadn't got the ball down field so credit to everyone really. I'm not taking anything as an individual honour because it was awesome from all of us," Gagai told NRL.com.
"[As for the final try] I was just the delivery man. There was a lot of work that happened before the ball got to me so I can't take the credit for that. The boys in the middle did a great job in the box for us and then we had good shape and shifted it out wide and it was just a great team effort."
In game that also proved to be a memorable 150th game for teammate Chris Houston, Gagai couldn't help but also mention the Knights' will to win for their "brother" Alex McKinnon.
It was Newcastle's fixture in Round 3 against Melbourne where McKinnon suffered his horrific spinal injury and while Gagai insisted that it wasn't spoken about in the week leading up to Saturday's Storm re-match, he was under the belief that everyone realised that actions spoke louder than words in a performance that was sure to be in honour of their injured teammate.
"Everyone knew we had to dig deep for our brother and to come out with a win like that is an indescribable feeling," Gagai said.
"I have so much joy in me personally right now. I'm over the moon and I couldn't be any happier for the boys and to do it for Houston's 150th as well was another bonus."
In what has been a season of undeniable lows for the Knights, including last weekend's 50-10 capitulation against the Rabbitohs, the Brisbane Wests junior remained upbeat about the future in what has been a low season sprinkled with unforgettable moments.
For Gagai, his belief is inspired by the fans that support the team through adversity, noting that it was a credit to the Newcastle faithful that have stuck by the team through what has been a rollercoaster of the year.
"To have the support of the Newcastle fans still, even though we aren't going to make the top eight and to see them turn out in force and support their team and get behind us, I tell you what, you could hear it and you could feel it out on the field," Gagai said.
"Not only were we doing it for Alex or for Houso or the team – we were doing it for the fans that turn up week-in, week-out that support us no matter what.
"It has obviously been a rough run for us but there are a lot of positives we can take out of it but at the end of the day you can't dwell on the past. We have to keep looking to the future."
With the Knights scheduled to play three home games in the final month of their season, Gagai is certainly happy to keep doing Newcastle proud with all eyes now on finishing the season on a high.