It has taken just three State of Origin games for Queensland’s Dane Gagai to earn comparisons with Maroons great Justin Hodges – for all the wrong reasons.
Gagai (quad) and fellow injury concern Nate Myles (knee) have officially been cleared to play Wednesday’s Origin III in Sydney.
But it has not stopped Maroons teammates aiming good natured barbs at recovering winger Gagai.
The Queensland flyer has been dubbed “Justin Hodges” at the Gold Coast camp, in tribute to the retired Maroons legend who had an uncanny knack for skipping training sessions.
Gagai has been limited to sideline drills at his second straight Origin camp on the Gold Coast due to an ongoing quad complaint he admits will need to be nursed for the rest of the NRL season.
“I don’t know where that came from but the boys have been peppering me a bit after missing a few training sessions,” Gagai said about the Hodges comparisons.
“It is something I will have to monitor after this but I feel comfortable handling whatever they (NSW) throw at me (in game three).”
Gagai will always have a strong link with Hodges after making his debut in the veteran centre’s Origin swansong – Queensland’s record 52-6 game three win last year.
But Gagai has already achieved in three games what Hodges could only pull off in 24.
Gagai has crossed five times for Queensland to date – the same clip as Origin record try scorer and Maroons teammate Greg Inglis who has 17 from 29 games to date.
Hodges had a career total of five Origin tries.
Gagai now has the record books in his sights.
He has scored four tries this series after becoming just the fourth Queenslander to bag an Origin hat-trick in their 26-16 game two win in Brisbane.
Gagai is now just a double away from claiming the most tries in an Origin series, surpassing NSW’s Ryan Girdler (five in 2002) and Queensland’s Lote Tuqiri (five in 2002).
“That (record) would be nice but I think about the team first – it’s about getting this win,” Gagai said.
History may be within Gagai’s grasp but the Newcastle flyer reckoned he still did not feel like an established starter for Queensland.
“I am always grateful to be part of such a great team,” he said.
“After growing up and watching this team on TV I still have to pinch myself now I am a part of it.
“This jersey doesn’t belong to me.
“I treat it like it is the last time I wear it – who knows how long I get to use it.”