Gagai's shattering end to confident week
After spending the past few days immersed in the Queensland camp leading into Wednesday's State of Origin clash, Dane Gagai was faced with a fresh dose of reality in Newcastle's 31-18 loss to the Broncos, where his confidence-building week came to a screeching halt.
Entering Mal Meninga's squad as back-up for centres Justin Hodges (foot) and Greg Inglis (illness), the Newcastle utility returned for club duty looking to build on the Knights' last-start win against the Wests Tigers.
Admitting he had heaped plenty of pressure on himself to perform in his unaccustomed position of fullback, Gagai said the worst thing about the Knights' loss was their inability to back up last week's win – their first in six weeks – against a Broncos team depleted by Origin representation.
"I can only speak for myself but I definitely put a bit too much pressure on myself and it was just not the result we wanted. We definitely wanted to back up the win after last week because it was a good win and we dug real deep," Gagai said.
"I just put [the pressure] on myself. I started the game fine. But then in the second half, when they started getting away from us a bit, I just wasn't really setting up and getting to where I needed to be.
"I was just running around and trying to get my hands on the ball instead of sticking to the game plan because I obviously wanted to come back [from Maroons camp] and obviously perform well for my team and for the town. It's definitely something I can work on if any game starts getting away again."
While Gagai was one of plenty Knights who failed to put their best forward against the Broncos, his time spent in Origin camp alongside Cameron Smith, Matt Scott and Cooper Cronk should prove valuable for the 24-year-old in the long run – even if he felt it didn't benefit him in an on-field sense.
"I didn't really learn anything about footy, but [I did learn] the way they do things and how the whole team is on board with each other and no matter what happens, they've always got each other's back and it's just like a big family," Gagai said.
"That's the best way to put it. You know they're always going to be there for you and they expect the same thing back. I just had a great time in camp. I was just so privileged to be a part of such a great organisation. It was just an enjoyable week and so laid back.
"But as soon as everyone laces up the boots and takes the field, the professionalism and the way those boys go about things was a good experience for me and I'll definitely take some things from that."