Dane Gagai is confident he can handle the goal-kicking duties for the Queensland Maroons on Wednesday night and credits extra sessions with Rabbitohs sharpshooter Adam Reynolds for fine-tuning his skills.
The Maroons winger was practising his shots at goal after team training on Thursday and is one of several options coach Kevin Walters has at his disposal in the absence of Kalyn Ponga.
The most accomplished goal kicker in the Maroons side is captain Daly Cherry-Evans who has landed 123 of his 171 attempts for Manly at a strike rate of 71.93%.
Cherry-Evans has not kicked for goal for Manly, however, since he injured his ankle in round seven against Canberra with Reuben Garrick taking over the duties for the Sea Eagles in their past nine games.
Gagai has landed 10 goals from 17 attempts in his 173-game NRL career to date but he has been hitting them well this season, kicking seven out of nine attempts for South Sydney while Reynolds was injured.
The Maroons have missed Johnathan Thurston for all sorts of reasons since he retired but the former halfback’s goal-kicking was a feature of Queensland’s dominance for more than a decade.
Last year Valentine Holmes took over the kicking duties while Ponga was given the responsibility in the first two games this year.
Gagai was working overtime in blustery conditions to get himself ready to do the job for Kevin Walters.
"Reyno is obviously the first-string kicker but after training I will go and practice with him. Doing a few kicks with him I get a few tips because he is obviously one of the best kickers in the comp," Gagai said.
"I am confident in doing it. It is an important role in any game but it is just about getting the reps in and getting the preparation right ... so when it comes to game time I don’t have any doubt in my mind taking those shots. I have just got to prepare well so going into the game I am confident.
"I am hitting them all right but with that wind I was only just making it from the sideline. I was striking them well. We have got a few blokes in the team that can kick. That is why I was doing a bit with KP [Ponga] when he was here just in case, so I was there to fill that space."
The Maroons ran a slick session at Langlands Park on Thursday and Gagai said there was a determination within the squad to make amends for the 38-6 loss in Perth.
"We are back to our normal routine after having a shorter space to train in but I think the vibe around the session, around the hotel and the camp in general has been a lot better," Gagai said.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
“Everyone was hurting after Game Two, as it should be. It was a very disappointing performance by us and we know that is not what we are about.
"Everyone was keen to get out here today for a full session and I thought we went well. We have got another opposed session tomorrow I think against the Easts Tigers so we can start running our shapes and some of the things we have been working on against some opposition."
Gagai warned that Cameron Munster’s switch to fullback and the insertion of Corey Norman at five-eighth would make Queensland formidable in attack, but added that winning at ANZ Stadium would come down to desire.
"Munster goes back to fullback and now he gets to pop up on whichever side he wants and I think that is going to be beneficial for us," he said.
"We can’t go into this game with any doubts in our minds and the way Corey has been training we know he is going to do the job and perform well ... but it all comes back to effort.
"Everyone from both teams is talented and skilful. That is why they are there, but these games are based on one-per-centers and working hard for your mate. We didn’t have that in Game Two and that is why all the boys are keen to make amends."