Dane Gagai stood neck and neck with Matt Burton in the middle of a field that felt like it was on fire at Suncorp Stadium as adrenaline rushed through his veins, and fired with his right hand.
“I was just like, ‘F–k it, it’s Origin,'” Gagai said when asked if he was surprised he was throwing punches since fistfights have practically disappeared from the modern game.
“You stand up for your mate and yourself. I ran in and gave him a nudge, he got up for himself which is natural and after that it went on.
Even on a night when emotions ran high and tempers torn, which can be traced back to an early scuffle between the teams after Jarome Luai was spotted standing next to a shaken Selwyn Cobbo and yelling at him, the sight took hold two players exchanging shots surprised almost everyone, especially Burton.
The NSW center had been chosen by the Maroons for some treatment from the moment he first touched the ball. They felt he had received the royal treatment in his debut game in Perth and wanted to make sure he knew what Origin football was really about.
Both men were behind a break from Maroon’s full-back Kalyn Ponga, who was eventually herded together by the scrambling NSW defence. As play went on and Daly Cherry-Evans kicked for himself to possibly score (he insists he did), Gagai said he saw Burton Ponga stumble in the second leg.
Gagai ran over and pushed Burton to the ground before the two collided. Gagai threw the first punch before a shocked Burton tried to react, only to get a shot to the cheek before being put in a headlock by Gagai’s fellow Queenslander Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
“I saw him running over KP and coming over the top, I just didn’t want to let it slip. He wouldn’t let me try to bully him. It was just one of those things in football. I don’t have any hard feelings towards him. He seems like a good guy and what happens on the field stays on the field,” Gagai said.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/why-dane-gagai-didn-t-pull-his-punches-20220714-p5b1ha.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Why Dane Gagai has no regrets about Matt Burton’s fight