All is forgiven for Dane Gagai, it seems.
Early last year a black line was put through Gagai’s name by Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
Fast forward barely 18 months and the Newcastle flyer has been named to make his State of Origin debut in July 8’s must win decider.
These days 24-year-old Gagai can do no wrong in Meninga’s eyes.
Last year? Not so much.
Gagai blew his first impression with Meninga when he missed a training session at last year’s Emerging Maroons camp in Brisbane.
As punishment, a fuming Meninga told Gagai he would not be considered for Queensland selection in the 2014 series.
That came back to haunt Gagai when he watched helplessly last year as Will Chambers snapped up the Maroons backline vacancy in Origin III created last year by Brent Tate’s career-ending knee injury.
But Meninga on Monday did not think twice about injecting Gagai onto the wing in a Maroons game three backline, reshuffled after fullback Billy Slater’s season ending injury.
Gagai wasn’t too interested in the past when introduced to the Brisbane media on Monday, only his exciting future.
“I have learned from my mistakes. I don’t hold any grudges,” he said.
“But I have moved past all that.
“I am just excited to be part of such a special team.”
As part of the new-look backline, Greg Inglis moves to fullback for Slater, Chambers slots into the centre vacancy and Gagai is on the wing.
Gagai typified his glorious form by amassing 203m, three line breaks and a try in Newcastle’s 44-22 NRL loss to Brisbane on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Meninga backed Gagai to produce more of the same when he returned to the venue next Wednesday night.
“He’s playing really good footy for Newcastle, he is part of their leadership group and in a beaten side he is one of their better players week in, week out,” Meninga said.
“That in itself enables the respect for him to be selected.”
Nerves are so far not a problem for Gagai who will run out for game three at his former “home” ground Suncorp Stadium.
Gagai came through the Broncos ranks before being cut in May 2012 for disciplinary issues.
Two months ago he knocked back an offer from Broncos coach Wayne Bennett to return in a show of loyalty to the Knights.
“It will be good to play at Suncorp, it is where I started with the (Broncos) under 20s,” Gagai said.
“And it’s my home state, it will be a great experience.
“I have been in a few (Queensland) camps so I am comfortable with the plays but I am sure the nerves will get worse as the game gets closer.”