HE has proven to be a Maroons match-winner on the wing, and is currently filling in fullback for his club team South Sydney.
But Queensland winger Dane Gagai has set his sights on emulating Maroons skipper Greg Inglis and making a permanent move into the Queensland centres next season.
When Inglis broke his hand playing for Souths on the eve of Origin III this year, his withdrawal opened the door for Gagai, who was shifted to the centres for the Suncorp Stadium dead-rubber.
Gagai has forged a fine reputation as a representative flanker for Queensland and Australia, playing nine consecutive games for the Maroons on the right wing, many of which have delivered outstanding performances – not to mention the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series in 2017.
Then there was his hat-trick to catapult the Maroons to a 26-16 win in Origin II in 2016, not to mention his role on the wing in Australia’s World Cup triumph last year.
But with Queensland centres Inglis (32 in January) and Will Chambers (30) entering the back-end of their careers, Gagai hopes Maroons selectors will consider him for a regular move in-field.
“My preferred position is centre,” Gagai said.
“The reason for that is I like being out there testing myself on the edges.
“At the end of the day, I love playing for Queensland and wherever ‘Kevvie’ (coach Kevin Walters) wants to play me is fine because I will always do what best benefits the team.
“As a playing group we are all on the same page … we play whatever role is best for the team.
“But if there is an opportunity for me looking ahead, I would like to be in the centres.”
Any concerns about Gagai’s defensive capabilities were dispelled in Queensland’s face-saving 18-12 victory in Origin III.
In his maiden outing at centre, Gagai was superb, making a number of crucial one-on-one tackles and holding his own against NSW centre James Roberts.
He also made six tackle busts and ran for a staggering 199 metres, the most of any Queensland player.
One of the key reasons for Gagai’s move to Souths from Newcastle this season was the chance to work alongside Inglis, saying he was inspired by ‘GI’s’ captain’s knock in Origin I this year at the MCG.
“He’s a freak and one of a kind,” Gagai said.
“Just with his competitiveness and aggression, I remember before we went into Game One, the look he had on his face being back in that Maroons jersey said it all.
“You could just tell he just wanted to go out and hurt somebody.
“I think I can bring that aggression like a lot of centres that have worn that Maroon jersey. Greg has always done his job for Queensland in the centres.”
While Gagai is now one of the first players picked in the Queensland team, the 27-year-old admits he never takes his spot for granted.
“When I first played one thing that always stuck with me was the old boys saying, ‘Treat every game like it is your last because you never know when it could be’,” he said.
“That is all I am doing.
“No-one ever owns this Queensland jersey. We are just privileged to wear this jersey at some point in time, so I just go out there with the mindset of doing my job and trying not to let Queensland down.
“Thinking that way, you never get complacent. You’ve got to make sure you are on because if you are not, you’ll get found out at Origin level.”