Rather than wilt under the heat of a high-stakes State of Origin debut, Queensland rookie Dane Gagai has been backed to shine by a former Maroons star.
Billy Slater’s injury-forced omission from Queensland’s team has thrust Gagai into a do-or-die first game against NSW at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
It’s a scenario which could make or break the 24-year-old’s Origin dreams.
But ex-Queensland winger Willie Carne, who played with Gagai’s father Ray in a Brisbane Colts team in 1989, has no doubt the Newcastle flyer will be a hit at Origin level.
“The old man was fit as a fiddle too and he was probably unlucky he didn’t get to go where Dane’s gone,” Carne told AAP.
“It’s awesome to see the protege coming through.
“He’ll fit in. He’s killing it. He’ll back himself. He knows how good he is and he just needs to go out there, do what he does naturally.”
Carne, who played 12 Origins between 1990 and 1996, says the backline shuffle caused by Slater’s injury won’t be as big a drama as some are fearing north of the Tweed.
Greg Inglis will fill the No.1 jersey in Slater’s absence with Will Chambers moving into the centres and Gagai coming in on the wing.
Carne says combinations and trick plays will mean little in a game which is likely to be tight and decided by small margins.
“I don’t think they’ll be too unfamiliar with each other with the play and stuff,” Carne said.
“It all comes back to that passion and it’s going to be a pretty basic game anyway, there’s not going to be the combination running around left, right and centre.
“He’s (Gagai) got the ability. He’s got that Black Magic and I can’t wait.”