Knights fullback Dane Gagai in Round 6.

Gagai finding his feet at fullback

Dane Gagai says he would do anything in name of helping his Knights side following his starring role at fullback in Newcastle's 18-16 win over the Wests Tigers.

It was no coincidence the Knights' first win in 230 days corresponded with Gagai's best performance of the year so far.  

The 25-year-old finished with 218 metres and five tackle breaks in what was just his ninth NRL appearance in the custodian role. 

 


Gagai believes coach Nathan Brown's confidence to put him in the No.1 jumper a month ago stemmed from his pre-season dealings with the Knights' new coach. 

"I said to Brownie before the season had even kicked off that I'll do whatever it takes to get this club to where it wants to be and for now he sees me as a fullback so I'm just buying into everything we're doing," Gagai told NRL.com. 

"I'm just taking it game by game and just trying to get better each week. I hadn't trained [at fullback] over the pre-season but I guess Nathan had belief and knew I'd be able to handle it. 

"Otherwise he wouldn't have put me there. I had confidence in myself too that I was going to do a job otherwise I wouldn't have agreed to it."

Brown said there was no questioning that Gagai has improved dramatically in the new role since being shifted from the centres.

"He came up with a try-saver in the second half which probably went unnoticed. It was a big key factor in the game so from a positional point of view he's definitely improving and I'm sure he'll only continue to improve," Brown said.

"We just need to learn how to utilise him a little better. He has a good instinct so he'll learn how to get his way into the game even more then."

Gagai exhibited maturity beyond his years when questioned about how his place in Newcastle's six-man leadership group has influenced his approach to games.

"I haven't changed anything. I'm just trying to lead by example and that's the thing. You can't really ask anything off anyone if you're not doing the job yourself," he said. 

"I'm just worrying about doing things from the back there and hopefully inspire the boys to do something."

Overall Gagai was relieved to see the Knights sustain a two-point half-time lead for almost the entire second stanza to earn their first win of the year.

He also said the victory would be a massive bonus in the development of rookies Jaelen Feeney, the Saifiti brothers and Pat Mata'utia.

"It's unbelievable considering how inexperienced the side is. We haven't used that as an excuse so to see the amount of the boys that have stepped up already this season is good. We're finally looking like a first-grade side," Gagai said. 

"Especially in that second half. We got off to a slower start to what we wanted [in the first 40] but we dug deep for the 21,000 people that turned up for us because we didn't want to let them down. 

"What our boys did in that first period of the second half brought the fans into the game and it was really uplifting. If we can start our games like that from the very first whistle then I think it'll go a long way in our development."