‘You can’t lie’: how recruitment blows sealed Gagai’s exit
NEWCASTLE coach Nathan Brown believes Dane Gagai would never have left the Hunter if the club had been able to secure some signings earlier in 2017.
The Knights struggled to land a number of high-profile signatures last year, most notably Jack Bird, Matt Scott and Kieran Foran.
Brown's recruitment drive kicked into gear later in the year, securing Kalyn Ponga, Aidan Guerra, Connor Watson, Jacob Lillyman, Tautau Moga, Herman Ese'ese, Chris Heighington and the big fish, Mitchell Pearce.
Gagai was the biggest loss for the club, opting to jump ship and sign with South Sydney to link up with his friend and mentor Greg Inglis.
Gagai was the club's only Origin player at the time he chose to leave, and Newcastle was in the process of collecting its third consecutive wooden spoon.
Brown and the Knights have never begrudged Gagai leaving.
"When it came to Dane Gagai - we missed out on Matt Scott and we missed out on Jack Bird and Gags asked, 'Who are we going to get?'" Brown told NRL.com.
"I said I can't promise you we're going to get anyone Gags, because until people sign you don't know.
"And you can't lie to players, because once you lie you've got no integrity and then you're buggered."
Brown believes Gagai would still be wearing the red and blue if Newcastle had been able to sign some of those players earlier.
"I'm not sure if Gags would say it publicly, and he's never said it to me, but I believe if we had signed Herman and Tau (Tautau Moga) and Mitchell Pearce and Aidan Guerra and all these blokes earlier in the year, Gags would have seen that," Brown said.
"Dane Gagai is a great competitor and he wants to win, he doesn't want to keep losing. He was great for this club and all the boys think the world of Gags, and certainly all the staff do.
"He came out of Origin with an injury and he risked not playing the next Origin to play for a club that was going to get the wooden spoon, because he is such a competitor.
"We had missed out on so many people, and Gags had been here for a fair period through a lot of losing.
"We would have loved to still have Gags."
Gagai returns to McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night to take on his former club.