Gagai's finger good to go another Origin round
It's hard to prove the fitness of a finger but Dane Gagai thinks he's managed to do just that for Queensland coach Kevin Walters as he prepares to name his Origin II team on Monday.
The 27-year-old made it through Origin I with a badly dislocated right index finger strapped up and treated with a pain-killing injection. He even scored the Maroons' second try.
After a week's rest, he played in South Sydney's 42-24 rout of Parramatta on Thursday at ANZ Stadium with no strapping and no need for anaesthetic.
"It will be all good I hope," Gagai told NRL.com.
"He saw I got through Origin and got through [the] game against the Eels."
Queensland must win the June 24 Holden State of Origin match to keep the best-of-three game series alive. Game three is scheduled for July 11 in Brisbane.
And Gagai will be in the thick of it after scoring eight tries in eight Origin games.
But no-one thought he would be able to play the series-opener at the MCG earlier this month after seeing him writhing in pain after a mishap in the captain's run.
"I think the graphic nature of the injury probably made it seem worse than it actually was," Gagai said.
"I was pretty fortunate that it was only a dislocation of the finger. It looked bad because it came out of the skin. But the scans showed there were no fracture or anything like that."
It was extremely painful regardless.
"Well I had it needled for the game [Origin] but not for this game. Once the adrenalin got going I was fine," Gagai said.
"I've played with a lot worse and some players have torn ACs [anterior cruciate ligaments], bruised sternums and a host of other things you can't see. And they make it through. I was lucky when you consider."
No intense physio sessions were required. Gagai just kept wiggling the finger up and down to keep it from stiffening up.
"It feels pretty good. I have fairly good range in it. I kept compression on it and the swelling went away fairly quickly," he said.
"I've had a couple of compound dislocations so I kind of knew what to do when it happened again."
Gagai wanted to play in the round 14 game against Gold Coast, two days after Origin I, but was ordered to rest by Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold.
"I was chomping at the bit last week to play in Sammy's [Burgess] 150th – a great milestone and I think of all the achievements he's done at this club," he said.
"It would have been good to play with him but it was Seeb's call and I always back him because he knows what's best for the team.
"So I support my coach a hundred per cent. But that's not to say I didn't want to play ... I really did. But I'm glad I did rest because it was such a short turn around."
Seibold's wisdom in resting his four Origin players paid immediate dividends. The Rabbitohs beat the Titans and then the foursome returned to put the Eels to the sword – Souths' seven straight win in the 2018 Telstra Premiership and that hasn't happened in 24 years.
"I think it's just a good connection between all the players, alongside Seebs' understanding of what we need to do and when we need to do it," Gagai said.
"He gives us the rests at the right times; trains us when we need to pick up on a few things. We have set structures but he's always willing to adapt and listen to us.
"Seebs is doing a phenomenal job and he's got great coaching staff with him. The players are the ones benefitting from all of that."