State of Origin will be the last thing on Queensland flyer Dane Gagai’s mind when he leaves camp on Friday, just days ahead of the series opener in Sydney.
But Gagai is adamant he will be mentally ready for Origin I after his beloved grandmother’s Friday funeral thanks to his other family – the Maroons.
Few will forget the heartwrenching images of Gagai breaking down in the arms of teammate Tariq Sims after Newcastle’s 62-0 NRL loss to Cronulla barely a fortnight ago.
It later emerged that Gagai had learned of his nan’s loss just hours before the game.
An emotional farewell looms on Friday when Gagai says goodbye to his grandmother at her funeral in Mackay, north Queensland.
However, Gagai said the Origin camp would be the best place to get his head right before game one thanks to his Maroons brothers.
“The boys’ support has been unreal, even back at clubland at the Knights – everyone has been so supportive,” he told Fox Sports TV.
“I am looking forward to representing Queensland again.
“It’s definitely challenging times but I am going to have to put all that behind me, put all my energy and focus into this Maroons jersey.”
New Queensland coach Kevin Walters said Gagai would be given all the support he needed to deal with his loss ahead of Origin I.
“The whole squad is rallying around him,” he said.
“We understand he’s going through a really tough time.
“But he’s part of the Queensland family and we’ll be there for him.”
One of the many shoulders to lean on has been rookie Corey Oates.
The Brisbane winger may be lining up for his first Origin but he is unfortunately well versed with what Gagai is enduring.
He attended his grandfather’s funeral just last week.
“I only found out when we came into camp what happened,” Oates said.
“But Dane is a pretty strong kid.
“He hasn’t shown too much but deep down you know what he’s feeling.
“I think he’ll play a great game.”
Despite playing for cellar dwellers Newcastle, Gagai kept his spot after making one of the great Queensland debuts in a record 52-6 Origin III win last year.
He made 115m, scored a try, had two line breaks and six tackle busts in the romp that sealed Queensland’s ninth series win in 10 years.