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Gagai ready to lead Knights NRL charge

There is no place like home for in-form Newcastle centre Dane Gagai.
Gagai ready to lead Knights NRL charge
by AAP

By Laine Clark

BRISBANE, Aug 23 AAP - There is no place like home for in-form Newcastle centre Dane Gagai.

Unfortunately for Saturday night's NRL opponents, the Cowboys, Gagai still considers north Queensland home - and he appears to have settled in nicely ahead of their cutthroat Townsville clash.

In what should sound alarms bells for a North Queensland side sweating on the fitness of form winger Kyle Feldt (ankle), Gagai said he felt like he was at his home away from home after his Mackay-based family confirmed they would fly in for a match that will help shape the top eight.

"I have my mum, dad and sister coming to the game. My brother has a game so he won't make it," Gagai said.

"They get in this afternoon and it will be nice to have my family there. It is great to be home, I am loving the weather and we should be set for a cracking game."

Dropped by Brisbane in 2012 for disciplinary reasons, Gagai has come of age at the Knights this season under coach Wayne Bennett.

So much so that he is considered the man to fill the huge Queensland Origin boots left behind by veteran Justin Hodges after this year being welcomed into the Maroons camp as a development player.

Gagai has continued to push his case as the seventh-placed Newcastle look to lock up a finals berth in the final three rounds - and knock the revitalised Cowboys out of the top-eight race.

He might not be a try-scoring machine - he has crossed the line just five times this year - but Gagai has run for more than 100 metres in each of his past nine games to form a devastating combination with winger Akuila Uate (12 tries in 18 games).

That's not quite what the Cowboys want to hear as they keep their fingers crossed Feldt plays ahead of what looms as a battle of the edges.

Kalifa Faifai Loa is on standby for Feldt whose fitness will be finalised on Saturday morning.

If Feldt succumbs, Kane Linnett and Antonio Winterstein will try to blunt Gagai and Uate on the left edge, while revitalised veteran Brent Tate and Faifai Loa face James McManus and Joey Leilua on the right.

"It will be a great test for us because there's been a lot of talk about Gagai playing good footy," Linnett said.

"I'm actually a bit surprised that Newcastle is sitting down in seventh place as I thought they would be a lot higher than that."

The 11th-placed North Queensland have won three straight since their coach Neil Henry was told his services would not be required next year.

But Linnett agreed the Knights - who kept Melbourne honest in a last-round 23-10 loss to the defending premiers - were the biggest hurdle to date in their last-gasp run to the finals.




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