Newcastle Knights utility back Dane Gagai joined a select group of players when he scored a hat-trick of tries in Wednesday's State of Origin win at Suncorp Stadium.
He became only the eighth player to do so, and the first since Matt King eleven years ago. He has also crossed over for five tries in the three times he has donned a Maroons jersey, something that hasn’t been done since Greg Inglis in 2006.
“It was a tough, grinding game,” an elated Gagai said after the match.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve scored a hat-trick in club footy, it was just off the back of such a quality football side.”
The Mackay product’s first try came in the 31st minute, the winger scooping up a loose ball on the right edge to run 70 metres and just get over the line.
“It was tit for tat at the start there, and Justin O’Neill came up with the big play to one-on-one tackle Michael Jennings,” he said.
“I knew Jennings was going to offload because it was fifth and last, and fortunately it came off Josh Mansour’s shoulder and I just took the opportunity.”
In the 46th minute Gagai picked up his second, adeptly collecting a cut-out pass from Darius Boyd to get over the line.
17 minutes later it was number three, as playmaking maestro Johnathon Thurston prodded a grubber down the short side.
“I’ll never take the credit for those tries, it was just an all-round effort as well as Johnathon Thurston putting it on a platter for me from that grubber,” Gagai said.
“I’ll go and celebrate with my little boy now, who is seven and a half weeks old and it’s the first game he’s come to.”
Gagai returns to the Knights, and will be assessed to see if he can line up for Saturday's match against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Hunter Stadium.