UP AND AWAY: Dane Gagai leaps out of a tackle against the Gold Coast. The star centre is confident the win over the Titans is just the start for the Knights. Picture: Getty Images
DANE Gagai could see what Knights coach Nathan Brown was aiming to achieve.
It was the reason the Queensland Origin star resisted overtures to rejoin the Broncos and their all-star cast and stick with Newcastle.
It has taken 12 months of hard slog –and disappointment –but Gagai is adamant the Knights are finally headed in the right direction.
The breakthrough 34-26 triumph over the Titans on Saturday ended a club record 19-straight losses for the 20015-16wooden-spooners.
“It obviously meant a lot,”Gagai said on the win.
“Last year and the year before were obviously tough ones.The boys trained well through the pre-season and leading into round one I knew we were building something special. I wanted to be a part of that.I have been at this club for a number of years now, and this club is definitely moving in a forward direction. I didn’t look at it as though we had lost 19 straight. We have lost one game this year and won one.It was great to get the win, but there is room for improvement and we are going to keep working and hopefully string together a few more.”
Next is South Sydney at home on Saturday, and another chance to end a drought.The Knights have lost seven straight games to the Rabbitohs, the past four by an average scoreline of 46-8.
“Wehave a lot of depth in the club now which is something we didn’t have much of last year,” Gagai said.“With injuries we had to play a lot of young fellas. Now we have people competing for jerseys. We have a good squad and boys who genuinely want to be here and want to win.”
Newcastle were embarrassed 48-6 by a Souths side without Adam Reynolds in round two last season.
Gagai, Trent Hodkinson, Danny Levi, and Daniel and Jacob Saifiti are theonly players from that match in the 17 named for Saturday.
The heavy defeatwas only the Saifitibrothers second game in the NRL. Daniel now has 20 appearances and Jacob 18.They have both added at least six kilograms of muscle.It is a similar story for a number of last season’s rookies.
“The key is to be better than last week and keep improving,” Gagai said.
“We have a lot more depth, and the squad we have now is a lot different to the one we had last year.
“I believe in thisteam. It comes down to us. We can’t control what they are going to do, what they are going to throw at us. But we can do the best we can defensively and in attack to put us in a position to come away with twopoints.”
Gagai, after a relatively quiet performance in the 26-22 loss to the Warriors in the season opener, was strong against the Titans and carried the ball a game-high 168 metres.
“Round one, I could have been a lot better,” he said.“Round, two I picked my game up and was a lot happier with my performance.”
The 26-year-old with 113 gamesis part of new right edge alongside rookie five-eighth Brock Lamb and recent arrivalsJamie Buhrer (second row) and Ken Sio (winger).
Most of the Knights triesin the opening two games have come down the left side. Winger Nathan Ross has four and centre Peter Mata’utia two.
Gagai said thecombination on the right“feels good” and had plenty of “strike power”.
“Kenny is a good strong ball runner,” he said.“It depends on the flow of attack.If I can get a quick play the ball and it goes to the left and they score, then I class that as a win for the right edge. It is about giving players around us an opportunity to do well. Obviously it is nice getting tries, but if I can play a hand in setting them up it is just as rewarding. I’d like to score one before the end of the year but it is a team sport.It is not about seeing who can score the most tries, it is about winning games.”