Dane Gagai is well aware of his ability to inspire others as a proud Indigenous athlete.
Grateful to be in the position he’s in as a Newcastle Knight and talented representative player, the 24-year old is also quick to acknowledge the support he has received along the way.
As the NRL celebrates its Indigenous Round this weekend, Gagai hopes to encourage young Indigenous people to strive to meet their potential and show pride in their culture.
“I’m hoping I can go out there and inspire other young Indigenous Australians to do what ever it is they want to do, whether it is to be a professional athlete or a vet,” Gagai said.
“I always go and put on that jersey hoping to inspire, do my best and give everything that I’ve got for my family, friends.
“I know that when I was growing up as a kid, the player I was watching was Matty Bowen and he made me want to strive to be a great football player and to play State of Origin.
“I’m just hoping I have the same effect on other kids out there watching, whether they be Indigenous or non-Indigenous."
To coincide with the NRL’s Indigenous Round, Gagai spoke to students at the Hunter TAFE Deadly Skills Workshop about the importance of Indigenous culture and education.
The aim of the NRL’s round is to highlight the significant contribution Indigenous players and communities have in rugby league as well as to support the RECOGNISE campaign.
This Sunday, Newcastle Knights will proudly wear the RECOGNISE symbol on their chest in support of the movement.
“It means a lot to our people and we are trying to raise awareness and hopefully close the gap,” he said.
Gagai is eager head back to Hunter Stadium for Sunday’s Indigenous Round match against the Sydney Roosters.
“They are a big strong side and are always going to be great on the day,” he said.
“We just have to make sure we turn up with a winning attitude.
“We showed that in the first half with the Dragons.
“We need to make sure we hold that for the full 80 minutes.
“They are definitely an 80-minute team. You can’t give them a sniff with the players they’ve got.
“We are going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got."
With the Knights’ recent struggle to find form, Gagai said interim head coach Danny Buderus has stressed the importance of remaining united as a team.
“He emphasised for all of us to stick together and be strong,” he said.
“Obviously the season is gone now, but we can still finish on a good note."
The Queensland Origin representative said the former Club captain is someone the players aspire to be like.
“He’s been in a lot of winning teams and is a great competitor and a great player and he knows what it takes to win,” Gagai said.
“He’s just been instilling that.”