Dane Gagai has been guilty of defensive errors at centre this season. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Dane Gagai has been guilty of defensive errors at centre this season. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Centred Gagai backed to shoot down Jet

MAROONS ace Dane Gagai has declared his Origin future is at centre and hopes his performance as Greg Inglis' replacement on Wednesday night can see him become his backline successor.

Gagai faces the biggest defensive assignment of his Queensland career on Wednesday night when he marks up against NSW speed machine James Roberts in Origin III at Suncorp Stadium.

The 27-year-old has been a revelation on Queensland's right wing since his debut in 2015, scoring nine tries from as many games - including a hat-trick to seal victory in the Suncorp decider of 2016.

 

But Inglis' absence on Wednesday night with a broken thumb has opened the door for Gagai to shift infield and the South Sydney three-quarter is eyeing a more permanent move to the Maroons' centres.

"My preferred position is centre because I like being on the edge," Gagai said.

"Wherever 'Kevvie' (coach Kevin Walters) wants to play me in this team and sees the benefits for the side is what I will do.

"We are all on the same page, but if I got the chance, I would like to be in the centres."

There is a view Gagai is better suited on the flanks because he is guilty of poor defensive reads at centre.

Gagai has the daunting task of defending against James Roberts. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Gagai has the daunting task of defending against James Roberts. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Statistics show Gagai is the second-worst centre defender in the NRL this season for missed tackles, with 42 from 13 games.

The in-form Roberts will back his power and speed to trouble Gagai, but former Maroons skipper Darren Lockyer is confident the Test winger will shut down "The Jet".

"Dane just rises to the occasion when it comes to State of Origin," Lockyer said.

"He will be acutely aware that some people will be questioning his defence, but Dane is just the ultimate competitor.

"It's a big task for him but Dane has too much ability and too much pride in the Queensland jersey to not aim up.

"He always seems to find a way to not let you down."

Gagai shifts to centre for injured Maroons captain Greg Inglis. Pic: Peter Wallis
Gagai shifts to centre for injured Maroons captain Greg Inglis. Pic: Peter Wallis

While Gagai has become a fixture of the Queensland backline, chalking up his 10th game Wednesday night, he never takes his Origin status for granted.

"When I first played, one thing that always stuck with me was when the old boys said to 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 jersey.

"We are just privileged to wear this jersey at this point in time, so I'll just go out there with the mindset of doing my job and trying not to let anybody down.

"I'll treat it like it is my last game and like it is my first. That way you never get complacent because at this level of footy, the speed of the game and the physicality of it is next level.

"You've got to make sure you are on because if you are not, you'll get found out."



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