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Watching his son strut his stuff at Newcastle Knights training this week, Ray Gagai couldn’t have been prouder.

It was a joy written all over his face as his eldest boy Dane mixed with the likes Kurt Gidley, Beau Scott and supercoach Wayne Bennett. 

You see, the sight of his young bloke running around at the highest level evokes emotions of sheer happiness because playing first grade was also his dream until it ended back in 1989 due to injury.

Ray was trialling with the Brisbane Broncos reserve grade side at the time, but had his lifelong goal cut short when he hurt his ribs in a trial match and was relegated back to the Under 21s competition on the Sunshine Coast.    

Gagai senior never recovered from that setback, but flash forward over two decades and he has found some solace in his son Dane fulfilling the top grade dream he never got to achieve.  

Asked if Dane's rise to the NRL ranks makes up for his own misfortune, Ray emphatically replied, “Oh big time."   

"It didn’t work out too well for me, but I’ve got no regrets. 

"I mean, I’ve got my own house so I’m happy with where I am.

“But I’m just so happy that Dane has taken that extra step and he is setting an example for the younger brother Jacob (NYC player) coming through.

"My wife and I are very proud with the way Dane is going.

"And I think he has got more room for improvement, the way he is going and the people he is surrounded by here at the Knights.

"I remember when he used to come to all my games and training nights as a kid when he should have been at home doing his homework, but he just loved it.

"He has done well to get this far and he has still got a long way to go, but he is getting there."

Talk to Dane about the influence of his father growing up in Mackay in North Queensland and he can't help but smile.                

He also has fond memories of attending all his old man's local league matches as a kid and hoping one day he'd get the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

"Dad is my biggest idol and he was always a player that I looked up to and I loved watching," he enthuses.

"I remember being ball boy for every one of his games.

"I spent most of the time just watching him instead of the game and getting a few clips behind the ear for not getting the ball in time.

"But I looked up to him growing up and I still look up to him now.

"And as much as I’m doing it for him, I’m doing it for my whole family and just try and do the Gagai name proud.

"It’s a bonus having him there though and being able to do it for my father."

Juggling footy with family has always been of vital importance to the Gagai's. 

Whether it be attending Dane's games across the country or having all the cousins chip in to pay for his parents air flights and accommodation to New Zealand when he made the Junior Kangaroos in 2010, relatives are regularly there for support.  

And again at Knights training on Thursday, the emerging centre had a dozen family members present watching him prepare for tonight's blockbuster clash against his former club Brisbane.                 

"No matter where you go, if you’ve got your family with you it’s always going to feel like home," he says.

"It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you are all together.

"That’s what I’ve been loving having all of them down here in Newcastle.

"I’ve got a little three bedroom house in Merewether and we’ve managed to squeeze 12 of us in there.

"But I’m loving every moment of it just having all the little cousins around."

The Gagai family will be out in force at Hunter Stadium tonight, with Ray confirming upwards of 20 relatives will be attendance. 

It's the type of commitment that's highly motivating for Dane. 

"I’m sure they are going to be singing and I’ll find out pretty quick where they’ll be located," he smiles.

"They’ll all come down with their jerseys with my face on it, so it’s not hard to miss.

"It will be great to play in front of the family again.

"I don't get to see them all the time and everyone gets days, no matter what you do, when you don’t want to do something.

"But I just think of the reason why I’m doing it and there is no better reason then to do it for family."

And you can bet Gagai will make them proud with another strong showing against the Broncos tonight.