Qld’s most wanted
Gagai bounces back to star on centre stage
A YEAR ago Dane Gagai was shunted to the wing at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Wayne Bennett gave his centre position to James Roberts and there were reports Gagai wanted out.
What a difference a year makes.
Roberts is now out the door at Redfern and Gagai is proving himself one of the best centres in the game.
He was magnificent last night against the Blues at Adelaide Oval to help the underdog Maroons to a gutsy victory.
He saved a try in the first half with a magnificent tackle on Daniel Tupou in the corner, then put the Maroons ahead in the second half by setting up the try for rookie winger Xavier Coates.
What a story.
There was talk Gagai wanted to quit the Rabbitohs when Bennett switched him to the wing.
But he hung in, got his spot back this year, and hasn’t looked back.
As far as State of Origin games go, this one was hardly a classic.
It lacked the big hits or brutal exchanges that have become an Origin trademark.
Maybe it was the fact these players have endured such a long and demanding season.
Or both that both teams had so many changes from last year.
The Blues were without six players from last year’s team from game three that won the 2019 series. No Blake Ferguson, Tom Trbojevic, James Maloney, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims or Wade Graham. The Maroons were missing Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita, Val Holmes and Michael Morgan. There is no question NSW will have to make changes for the return game in Sydney. There second half was terrible. Nathan Brown will come onto the bench for Cameron Murray. But they need more. There will be much discussion around the Blues halves. Nathan Cleary and Luke Keary were both below their best. At some stage Cody Walker will have to come under consideration to start. Or even Cleary’s halves partner at the Panthers Jarome Luai. We also need more punch and power in the middle of the field. Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Isaah Yeo should come into the mix. Only one of our middle forwards had over 100m — Daniel Saifiti. After a poor first half, the Maroons were outstanding. Kangaroos halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster clicked into action and cleary outpinted their opposite number Whatever Bennett said at halftime worked. The old super coach has obviously still got it.