Gagai ga-ga for All Stars selection
He's been captivated by the concept ever since its inception in 2010 and Newcastle centre Dane Gagai says a call-up to the Indigenous All Stars team would be a career highlight not only for himself but his entire family.
Both the Indigenous All Stars and NRL All Stars teams will be announced in Brisbane on Monday with the two teams to be revealed live on NRL.com from midday AEDT.
When voting was nearing its close Gagai was in the mix for a spot in the outside backs along with the likes of Justin Hodges (Broncos), Jamal Idris (Panthers) and cousin Josh Hoffman (Titans) while Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston was also in contention to make his All Stars debut..
Over the Christmas break Gagai returned to his home town of Mackay to spend time with his family and said if he was to be selected for the All Stars clash on February 13 at Cbus Super Stadium he would do everything he could to make sure they were there to share the occasion.
"My nan's in a wheelchair but I'm sure she would do what she could to make that trip to come watch that game and I'd do everything I could to get her there," Gagai told NRL.com. "I'd want all my family there so I guess if I did make that side I'm going to have to get a few tickets, just like every other fella in the team.
"On my mum's side I'm a Kiwi, a Maori, and on my dad's side is TI (Thursday Island) and Torres Strait Islander so we've got both sides of the family with big cultural backgrounds and proud cultural backgrounds.
"I'm born and raised in Australia and this is my home but I'm proud to be a Kiwi also. If I were to be selected in that side it would mean a lot to me and my family and that would be my biggest thing, wanting to make them proud."
The history of All Star games in the United States stretches back to 1935 for Major League Baseball and 1951 for the NBA and Gagai said the inaugural win by the Indigenous All Stars in 2010 gave him something special to strive for.
"When the All Stars first started I thought it was an unreal concept and as soon as I heard about it it was obviously something I wanted to be a part of," said the 24-year-old.
"You see it in the NBA with the East and West All Stars and to be able to have something like that and be part of it and represent not only the people but my family and my culture...
"I've watched all of them and just how exciting and fast the game is, to be a part of something like that would be a big milestone in my career."