How Good Is: Dane Gagai
Despite some low points in his short career explosive Newcastle Knights centre Dane Gagai has emerged looking better than ever in 2014.
Having matured exponentially since his sacking from the Broncos midway through 2012, Gagai has improved out of sight during his time in Newcastle. In only his second full season of top-flight rugby league the 23-year-old's form suggests it's only a matter of time before he earns a coveted Maroons jumper.
Gagai, one of only three players to feature in every Newcastle game this season, has produced six tries and 10 line breaks to date. His teammate Akuila Uate has cashed in on this rich vein of form, hanging off his inside man at every opportunity as the three-quarter has galloped to an average 133 metres a game (2670 metres overall), the most inroads made my any centre.
For all his brilliance Gagai still needs to work on his defence - his 77 missed tackles are the fifth most in the competition. But when he ties up that loose end? Watch out NRL!
Trademark Play: His sheer tackle-breaking ability. Able to step off both feet, Gagai has busted through 91 tackles (fourth best in the NRL). This was best demonstrated against the Cowboys in Round 15. Thrown the ball 40 metres out from the tryline, Gagai promptly snapped a right-foot step to evade Johnathan Thurston then burned Tariq Sims to race away, securing the Knights' first win in two months. He showed his abilities again to score a similar quick-footed try later on in the same game.
Key Moments: Most recently Gagai's influence was highlighted in the Knights' miraculous Round 22 win over Melbourne. Gagai got the ball rolling for Newcastle's comeback with a deceptive run from dummy-half which saw the young gun score a crucial try - and almost fool the cameraman to boot. His calmness under pressure was shown as well when he coolly threw the final pass to Uate for the match-winning try despite Storm duo Marika Koroibete and Mahe Fonua sprinting up and in at the centre in defence.