Gagai ready for leadership role
Far from the undisciplined figure who was sacked by the Broncos four seasons ago, Newcastle centre Dane Gagai believes he's never been more comfortable with his surroundings.
Following a season where he made his Queensland Origin debut and re-signed with the Knights for a further two years Gagai has come into his own at Newcastle.
Having just bought his first house and with a baby on the way Gagai is shaping up for a huge 2016 season.
"It's the most settled I think I've ever been," Gagai told NRL.com.
"At the same time as we were buying our house – without us really knowing – my partner and I found out we're expecting a baby so everything is really good. It's a new chapter in my life.
"A lot of boys around here are dads so it'll be good to join the 'Dad club' here. Korbin Sims just had a baby of his own so I suppose I'll be the next one to join that crew."
For all of his success in 2015, after earning Indigenous All Stars and Prime Minister XIII debuts on top of his Origin start, the Knights' wooden spoon season ultimately proved an overriding factor for Gagai.
"For me to be happy usually it means that the team wins," Gagai said.
"I don't really read into my individual honours too much, even though making my debut and playing for Queensland was one of the best days of my life.
"It's a team sport after all. I could have a really good game for the Knights but if we lose then I won't care how I played."
After falling off a footbridge and tearing his hamstring in Newcastle's CBD during last year's pre-season Gagai's focus remains team-oriented before season start.
"It's just a matter of now knuckling down in pre-season and doing what's the best for the club," Gagai said.
"I obviously had my little accident this time last year which put me back a bit but I still managed to play pretty well.
"Now with hopefully a full pre-season under my belt I can really do well next year."
One of the more experienced outside backs at the club alongside Akuila Uate, the 24-year-old is prepared to take the club's younger stars under his wing – in particular Sione Mata'utia and Jake Mamo who are sure to be pencilled in for big roles under new coach Nathan Brown.
"I've played a fair few games now so I have to look out for the younger outside backs in the squad. But even then the new start with Browny means we'll get to see guys like Joe Tapine really do well next season," Gagai said.
"We obviously have Jeremy Smith still here and then there's other guys like Tariq Sims, Robbie Rochow and even Korbin Sims too so within our whole squad we have plenty of guys who have embraced a leadership role."