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Smith impressed by Knights ace Gagai

Queensland skipper Cameron Smith has earmarked Newcastle young gun Dane Gagai as a potential replacement for the injured Justin Hodges in next year's State of Origin series.
Smith impressed by Knights ace Gagai
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Aug 20 AAP - Queensland skipper Cameron Smith has earmarked Newcastle young gun Dane Gagai as a potential replacement for the injured Justin Hodges in next year's State of Origin series.

The 22-year-old was praised by Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy after his side's hard-fought 23-10 win over the Knights on Sunday and Test captain Smith has added his name to a growing list of admirers.

"I think anything is possible for Dane, he is a wonderful player," Smith said.

"Both games we have played Newcastle this year he has been on the list of players we've looked at and tried to contain because he's very dangerous with the footy.

"He's been great ever since he started playing with the Broncos."

Gagai has blossomed under Wayne Bennett who brought him to the club following his shock release by the Broncos midway through the 2012 season due to a series of minor disciplinary breaches.

The seven-time premiership coach immediately switched Gagai into the centres despite having played most of his junior career at fullback or on the wing.

And the move has been a big success with Gagai's dazzling footwork and strong running drawing comparisons with Hodges, who'll miss up to a year of action due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Gagai will return to face the Broncos for the first time next week and has always insisted he holds no hard feelings towards his former club.

And Smith said if the Mackay-born youngster continues his storming progress he'll add his name to the list of candidates vying for Hodges' spot.

"We're pretty lucky to have a few guys like Dane playing well in that position," he said.

"We had Justin O'Neill as 18th man for the third game this year and Will Chambers was there as well, and he's had a fantastic year.

"We have three or four guys putting their hand up with Hodgo out.


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