Newcastle RL: More mature Gagai out to forge own NRL career

FOCUSED: Lakes United centre Jacob Gagai scored two tries in his return match from a hamstring injury against Kurri Kurri. Picture: Jonathan Carroll


JACOB Gagai is accustomed to being known as “Dane’s little brother”.

The tag has followed him from their home town Mackay to the Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos.

Five years the junior, Jacob is immensely proud of whatKnights and Queensland star, Dane, has achieved.

“I still pinch myself when he plays for Queensland,” the 21-year-old said. “To see a sibling of mine doing something like that. For him to receive player of the series, I was way proud.”

Jacob, while admiring Dane,is hisown man, with his own goals.

“I will always be looked at as Dane’s little brother,” Jacob said.“You hear it from the sidelines …I’m not the type of person who lets that stuff get to them. We are two completely different people.He has his life and his football career.If I worry about that, it can take distract me from what I want to achieve.”

Jacob, who came through the juniors at the Knights and Broncos, is in his second season at Lakes United.

The centre scored a double in his return from a seven-week hamstring injury in a 18-16 win over Kurri Kurri on Saturday.

Although Lakes and a successful final series is the focus, Gagai has a long-termgoal of playing in the NRL.

YEAH BABY: Jacob Gagai slides in for a try in the win over Monaro in the final of the NSW Country championships. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a boy,” he said.“Seeing my brother and cousin, Josh Hoffman, playing in the NRL, it gives you that bit more motivation.I feel like through the juniors, SGball and under-20s, I wasn’t mature and just thought it would happen.Now, I realise how badly I want to play in the NRL and make it my career. It is all I will be working towards until I get it.”

Lakes coach Dean Noonan has noticed a change in Gagaion and off the field.

“His approach to the game – his preparation and how he looks after himself – has gone up in spades,” said Noonan, who also works for the Knights and has known Jacob for five years.“When he was there last time he was a young kid and didn’t really put the pieces together. He has finally recognised, if you are going to have a crack at anything you have to work at it. Credit to himbecause that is what he has done. He still has a way to go but he recognises that.If anotheropportunity comes, I’m confident he will grab it.”

Gagai has taken confidence from his return match.

“As the game rolled out I started to get more comfortable with it,” he said. “I had zero pain and was just glad I got through 80 minutes.”

Gagai is one of eight players from the Newcastle Rebels selected in the NSW Country under-23s side for games against Samoa in Wagga (October 13) and Scotland in Balina (October 20).

“With the World Cup coming up they need a couple of trials,” he said.“Being under-23s it gives young blokes like myself and opportunity against players who play in the NRL.”