“That’s the thing my whole career,” Gagai said. “There are a lot of carries on that field I don’t want to take. They kick you into a corner and you have a wall of the opposing team ready to just fly off the line and bash you. You have no choice but to take your medicine.
“But I’ll do that because I know if I can get a quick play-the-ball, that helps the next guy. That’s always been the way I have been though, throughout my whole career.”
Gagai is such a fierce competitor that if he gets a decent whack trying to earn some yards out of dummy-half, his first inclination is to line up and go once more into what he calls the “washing machine”.
“That’s where that competitiveness does come out. If they get up and hit me or drive me back, I get frustrated and want to take it again. If I get two carries in a set, that’s one less carry someone else has to take. The middles, especially, can take a deep breath. They take the brunt of it all,” Gagai said.
“If they have gas in the tank, it’s going to make my job a lot easier to defend on an edge. I’ll take this carry, you catch your breath, then you can go and bash someone when it’s their turn.”
Gagai has been making sure to fill his time during the week to ensure his mind doesn’t start to wander to places that may be counterproductive to performance. He may be a grand final rookie but his efforts on the big stage for Queensland, including his outrageous efforts to win the Wally Lewis Medal in 2017, should hold him in good stead.
“The final parts of the Manly game were a bit disappointing but once that final whistle went, it hit us that we were going to a grand final. That rush of adrenalin just swept through us, we were over the moon,” Gagai said. “But now that we are here, it’s back to business. I’m calm and relaxed at the moment and I don’t like to think too far ahead. It’s such a cliche but I just need to switch on, do my job and prepare the best I can.
“I do find myself laying in the room and I start thinking ‘what if this happens, what if that happens?’. I know I need to snap out of that and go and do something. The week can go quickly but it will drag on forever if you constantly think about the game.”
Given the way he contributes for the Rabbitohs, Gagai knows he has never been the most fashionable of players. He also knows a premiership ring never goes out of style.