Not so long ago critics thought he wasn’t worthy of Queensland selection.
Now three try hero Dane Gagai is in the State of Origin record books.
The winger was the toast of the Maroons after crossing for a rare hat-trick to spark the Maroons’ series-winning 26-16 game two triumph in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
It sealed Queensland’s 10th series win in 11 years.
Gagai became only the fourth Queenslander and seventh overall to cross for a record three tries in an Origin game.
He now has five tries from three games – a better hit rate than Origin record try scorer Greg Inglis.
“I have never got a hat-trick in the NRL – words can’t describe it,” Gagai said of his feat.
Yet six weeks ago Queensland selectors were expected to overlook Gagai as he battled away for NRL cellar dwellers Newcastle.
The Maroons remained loyal to the incumbent winger for Origin I in Sydney.
Gagai was again in danger of missing a game when his Origin II preparation was hampered by a quad strain.
He missed the first week of the Origin II camp, with North Queensland winger Kyle Feldt filling in at training.
“It came to a point where I was considering coming up to (coach) Kevvie (Walters) and saying ‘I don’t want to go out there and let the team down’,” Gagai said.
“But thankfully I had time to recover.”
Queensland captain Cameron Smith said Gagai had cemented his spot on the wing.
“This is a guy who six weeks ago some people were saying shouldn’t be in the team,” he said.
“He’s a wonderful player.
“I can see him in the Origin jersey for a long time.”
Gagai opened his account by snapping up a first half intercept and running 80m to score – eventually.
Incredibly, Gagai was almost reeled in by rookie forward Tyson Frizell in an inspired pursuit in the 33rd minute that gave Queensland a 10-4 halftime lead.
Gagai’s quad was the least of his problems as he collapsed over the try line.
“I was worried about my lungs not my quad – the lungs were burning,” Gagai laughed.
“I thought I was going to get caught.
“It definitely tested the quad out. It pulled up sweet.”
Not everything went to plan.
Gagai inadvertently threw an intercept pass for NSW half James Maloney who ran 90m to score and cut the deficit to 20-14 with 13 minutes on the clock.
Maroons flyer Corey Oates sealed the Queensland win with a 73rd minute try – much to Gagai’s relief.
“I had teammates come up to me after the game saying I got three tries and a try assist,” Gagai laughed.
“But when Corey scored it put the smile back on my face – I thought I had let the boys down.”