Gagai ready to fill Inglis' boots in Origin finale
It is an audition for the future and his biggest test in a Queensland jersey but Dane Gagai insists he is ready to do his job replacing Greg Inglis at left centre as the Maroons target avoiding a series whitewash.
Gagai will switch from right wing to left centre in the Holden State of Origin series finale at Suncorp Stadium and was emphatic when asked if it was his greatest challenge yet.
"Yeah. It is a new position at this level of footy but I’ve played enough of it now to be confident that I will be able to do the job," Gagai said.
"It is a massive loss losing Greggy and he is obviously devastated that he couldn’t be here but … it's about building combinations and knowing my role in the team so that on Wednesday night I am ready to go."
The 27-year-old Rabbitoh has played all his nine Origin games as a winger, winning player of the series in 2017.
Inglis, out of Origin III with a broken thumb, was on fire in the opening two games and Gagai knows he must ensure his own presence is felt.
"[Inglis] is a freak and one of a kind, just with his competitiveness and aggression," Gagai said.
"I remember before we went into game one the look he had on his face being back in that Maroons jersey. You could just tell he just wanted to go out and hit somebody. He’s been asked a couple of times if he wanted to be at fullback or centre and he likes being in that front line hitting people.
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"I just need to be bringing that aggression like a lot of centres that have worn that Maroon jersey have and make sure I do my job, because Greg has always done his job."
Maroons prop Tim Glasby said while Inglis was a huge loss, Gagai was up to the challenge.
"Greg put on some big hits and really got the guys going in that sense. A few of his tackles changed the momentum," Glasby said.
"We don't expect Dane to go out and be GI, we want him to go out and be the best version of Dane and that is the same with every position.”
Gagai said he had forged a strong understanding with his left edge including winger Corey Oates as they pinpoint Blues dynamo James Roberts.
"I just have to make sure I am communicating with the boys around me and as a left edge doing the best we can in defence so that when we do get the opportunities in attack we execute. It is exciting. I’m looking forward to getting back in the centres and getting my hands on the ball more."
While he is now one of the first players picked for Queensland, Gagai gave an insight as to why he had been such a success in the representative arena.
"When I first played one thing that always stuck with me was when the old boys said to treat every game like it is your last because you never know when it could be," he said.
"No one ever owns this jersey. We are just privileged to wear this jersey at this point in time so I’ll just go out there with the mindset of doing my job and trying not to let anybody down. I’ll treat it like it is my last game and like it is my first. That way you never get complacent."
Suffering a series whitewash was "obviously something you don’t want on your resume" but Gagai said the Maroons were "trying to build to something bigger than that".
"It is important to win every game," he said.
Origin at Suncorp, there's nothing like it! Game III tickets available here