Dane Gagai hasn’t lit up the Rabbitohs attack like they might have hoped when signing him from the Knights last season. But if there’s ever a time for a player to find some form in the NRL, it’s against his former club.
Former Knight, Dane Gagai, will receive plenty of attention from both sets of fans on Friday night.
Playing at McDonald Group Stadium in Newcastle, he will no doubt receive a warm reception having made 129 appearances for the Knights. Anybody that played through three consecutive wooden spoons deserves a hero’s welcome back now that the club is on the rise.
Rabbitohs fans will also have an eye on Gagai. Yet to register a try in his eight appearances for the club, questions are being asked over his price tag.
His strike rate over the course of his career isn’t outstanding for a centre. In 105 appearances in the position, he’s only managed 25 tries.
That looks set to change this weekend, though.
Dominate the middle and send it wide
With the size, power and experience Souths have in the middle, it’s no surprise where their greatest strength lies.
By leading the NRL in running metres with 1,630 per game along with the fourth-most offloads at 12.1 per game, Souths have no trouble getting up the field.
The Burgess twins, in particular, are getting back to their best. Their older brother has been outstanding, albeit, suspended for much of the season so far. John Sutton is another that has performed better than expected with Father Time not yet catching up. Meanwhile, Angus Chrichton and Cameron Murry offer up the youthful exuberance every forward pack needs.
Souths have it all in the centre third of the field.
That spells danger for the Knights.
No team concedes more running meters per game than Newcastle. Opposing teams have been pushing them back with relative ease and Souths offer up the strongest push of the lot.
On the back of the forward-moving pack, South Sydney throw the most passes in general play at 124.3 per game. Anticipating that the Rabbitohs spend a lot of time throwing the ball around inside the Knights 20-metre line in this one, Gagai, in particular, is a good chance at grabbing a meat pie as a Bunny ($2.50 anytime).
Gagai vs Ross
With a bit of help from Adam Reynolds, Gagai should be able to expose his opposite, Nathan Ross.
Ross is still new to the centre position. With only six starts there in 53 career games, he still has a lot to learn about the timing and decision making that comes with playing in the game’s most volatile position.
He’s been the target of an opposing teams game plan once or twice already this season.
The Newcastle left edge conceded a soft try last week and were lucky not to be hit with another as Manly tested Ross’ defensive combination with Jack Cogger and Ken Sio either side of him.
Such is the inept nature of the Sea Eagles attack, they didn’t get much out of it. However, the Rabbitohs and their 23.5 points (3rd in the NRL) and 5.4 line breaks (1st) per game is a different beast.
Expecting to see plenty of ball head down the right side this week, Gagai’s 34th try of his career, and first as a Rabbitoh, looks good to come against his former club. Souths fans will be hoping it’s the first of many as he begins to justify the large portion of the salary cap dedicated to the Queensland and Kangaroos rep.