How Souths plan to help Gagai kill off Origin ’myth’
Dane Gagai has revealed how a significant change to South Sydney's playbook will finally kill off that collection of criticisms, and jokes, about his best football only coming for Queensland.
In an exciting announcement for Rabbitohs fans - and potentially, SuperCoach pundits - Gagai has told News Corp how a series of attacking changes made by coach Wayne Bennett over summer will see him more involved than in any of his previous three seasons at Redfern.
The 30-year-old also declared himself ready to silence those critics who believe his best performances are reserved for the Origin arena, especially after yet another outstanding campaign last November saw the Mackay product help lead a severely understrength Queensland to the greatest interstate upset ever.
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During the series, a host of fans, commentators, even Maroons greats marvelled at the indigenous centre's ability to lift at Origin time.
"But I'm sick of that myth," Gagai said this week.
"And it's something I'm ready to put to bed.
"While I don't think it's right, I know the talk is out there.
"And now I'm ready to end it."
Better, he has the support of Bennett.
That winningest of NRL coaches who, last October, got to see exactly what fuels Gagai for Origin after triumphantly returning himself to coach Queensland to that emphatic series win.
While the Souths No.4 was giving little away regarding exact alterations to the Bunnies attack, he confirmed changes would give him "more opportunity to get my hands on the ball" than ever before.
Exactly what that means will be revealed in greater detail this Saturday evening, when Souths challenge for the annual Charity Shield against St George Illawarra in Mudgee.
Quizzed on suggestions he saved his best performances for the Maroons, Gagai said: "In Origin, there are different structures and different game plans.
"Teams want different things.
"So it's not that I go to a different level, I just get some (different) opportunities playing there.
"When I first came to Souths in 2018 (under coach Anthony Seibold), one of the game plans meant the ball didn't get shifted much my way.
"And that's fine.
"Because I will always do my job for the team.
"Whatever the coach asks of me, I'll do.
"But I believe this year is going to be an exciting one … we've focused on a lot of (new) things and I believe I'm going to get a lot of opportunity. I'm excited."
Importantly, Gagai stressed he was not criticising any previous Bunnies campaign.
"I'm definitely not saying there was anything wrong with our game plans," he said.
"Because they got us to three consecutive preliminary finals.
"And as I said before, whatever job I'm given I'll do it to the best of my ability.
"Doesn't matter if it's a kick chase, taking hit ups, whatever … I'll do it.
"But this year I believe there is going to be more opportunity for me to get my hands on the ball. And the more I can get my hands on the ball, the more effective I feel I can be."
Asked if the changes were something he had spoken to Bennett about, either after the Origin series or over summer, Gagai continued: "I haven't spoken to Wayne because it's not about me.
"I'm not sitting here saying I want the ball so I can do this or that.
"All I want to do is win.
"So if you tell me to do something because you feel it will help us win, I'll do it.
"I just want to win a grand final."
A mainstay of the Queensland Origin side for six years - and Wally Lewis medallist, from the wing, in 2017 - Gagai was outstanding for the Maroons in last year's series, particularly in the opening game. In 16 appearances for Queensland he has also scored 11 tries.
"But a lot of things come into it," Gagai continued.
"Origin is based on three games. So you can have one or two good games and everyone says how great you go.
"But two blinders at a club level, especially over the course of an entire NRL year, your season has to be based on a lot more than that.
"Still, it's not like I just turn up to Queensland camp at Origin time.
"To make that team, I have to be playing well. I have to be playing well for Souths to get there."
Originally published as How Souths plan to help Gagai kill off Origin 'myth'