It's fair to say it's been an emotional whirlwind for Queensland Origin and Newcastle Knights star Dane Gagai of late.
In recent weeks proud Torres Strait Islander Gagai was allegedly racially abused, became a father for the first time and had to deal with his grandmother's passing and funeral which was held last Friday in Mackay.
Gagai said the memories of his late grandmother fuelled the fire for his starring role in Queensland's 6-4 win over the New South Wales on Wednesday night after scoring his state's only try – his wrist tape providing a constant reminder of his motivation in the heat of battle.
"On the way over to the stadium, I thought about her. I was grateful and lucky enough to have my grandmother come watch me make my Origin debut in Brisbane last year. She was able to see me represent Queensland," an emotional Gagai said.
"I had 28 tickets or something ridiculous like that allocated to me last year and she was definitely the first one on the list there to get one. What I have on my wrist tape was for my grandmother but it was also for my whole family.
"In times of need, we all come together. I know my grandmother would have been watching so I wanted to go out there and make her proud, make my family proud and make Queensland proud."
Gagai's 37th-minute try proved the eventual match-winner following a scoreless second half but he refused to take the credit for Queensland's early advantage in the Holden State of Origin series.
Rather the Souths Sharks junior was amazed by the company he was in and was taking absolutely nothing for granted in terms of his burgeoning Origin career.
"It was unbelievable. It's such a privilege to be on the end of such a great team. I wouldn't call [my try] the match-winner though. It was definitely earlier on in the piece and our boys worked so hard in the middle and they're such a great team," Gagai said.
"My game come off the back of such quality players, everyone dug deep and was unreal. It's only my second Origin game so I still have to keep working hard on my game.
"I'm not looking at my place in this team as if it's mine to keep. I just want to do everything I can to represent Queensland as best as I can."
Another highlight of Origin I remained Gagai's combination with debutant centre Justin O'Neill.
It was expected the Maroons' inexperienced Origin right-edge would be targeted by NSW but the duo certainly held their own up against Michael Jennings and Josh Mansour.
Even after copping an earlier head knock O'Neill stood up and delivered when it mattered following his magic lead-up work to Gagai's four-pointer.
"It was obviously fun working with 'Juzzy' as two younger fellas playing out there. He played outstanding," Gagai said.
"He was good defensively and he put me away for my try so I can't thank him enough."
Gagai also said in the immediate aftermath of Queensland's two-point win that it was too soon to determine whether he'd be fit for Newcastle's clash in North Queensland on Saturday.
"The adrenalin is still going through me. Last year I said I would be sweet after the game and then woke up the next morning and felt like I was bashed," Gagai laughed.
"So I'll be off to Merewether baths (in Newcastle) before we head to Townsville to ensure I do everything I can to get the body right."
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