While he dazzled on the field and contributed a skillful try to the Indigenous Allstars’ campaign on Saturday night, it’s the off field impact Newcatsle Knight Dane Gagai is most proud about when it comes to his representation in the side.
The blockbuster game, which featured some of the highest profile names in rugby league, was the culmination of a week filled with community visits, workshops and a leadership camp that all aimed to strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non Indigenous communities.
“The experience was unbelievable,” Gagai told Knights TV on his return to the Club.
“We had a good bunch of boys in the playing group.
“It was just a great week to be a part of.”
The World All Stars emerged 12-8 winners at Suncorp Stadium, but a proud Gagai was far from fixated on the result of the match.
“I’m not disappointed. It would have been nice to bring back the shield, but I think the effort we showed and the passion both teams showed on the night was unbelievable,” he said.
“I can’t thank (coach) Wanye (Bennett) and the World All Stars enough for the competitiveness that came from that team, it made for a great game.
“Throughout the week everyone was unbelievable.”
The Mackay born Knight is intensely passionate about his culture and was proud to see players in the World All Stars side engaging in meaningful conversations about Indigenous issues.
“I saw big Tom Burgess speaking about the Indigenous culture and how he was learning things,” he said.
“To hear from someone that’s not from here and talking about it, trying to help raise awareness and motivate people to strive to be better was a great thing to see.
“At the back end of that, we had 37,000 people turn up to the game so I don’t think it should even be in question whether this should keep going.
“I believe this game is beneficial, because unless you’re out there seeing what we’re doing for the community with the All Stars, It’s just a great concept.”
One of the special moments of the week for the explosive outside back was a visit to Stradbroke Island for a two-day leadership camp.
“Just listening to some of the stories about Aboriginal culture and how they used to hunt, it was mind-blowing,” he said.
“Now we have all this technology to pick up on weather and the time of the season, but obviously thousands of years ago, they didn’t have that, they just knew.
“The instinctive survival and hearing the stories was mind-blowing for me.”