He’s dubbing it as “just another game” but in reality South Sydney centre Dane Gagai faces a State of Origin-like challenge in Friday night’s NRL blockbuster with the Sydney Roosters.
Gagai has been tasked with stopping try-scoring juggernaut Latrell Mitchell.
He also has the job of dealing with half of Mitchell’s triumphant NSW teammates with Blues skipper Boyd Cordner and dynamic fullback James Tedesco sure to be terrorising the Rabbitohs’ right-edge defence.
Then there’s in-form Blues discard Blake Ferguson outside Mitchell.
While Gagai is one of the leading attacking forces in the NRL, there have been a few questions about his defence – borne out of statistics last month that he’d missed the second most tackles of any centre this year.
But if he’s concerned about what is about to come his way at Allianz Stadium, Gagai isn’t showing it.
In fact Queensland’s 2017 State of Origin player of the series hopes he can show up Mitchell, arguably the competition’s most lethal player with six tries in his past three outings.
“That’s why I enjoy playing in the centres. You get that one-on-one battle with your opposite number,” Gagai said on Wednesday.
“He’s been doing some great things this year and he’s a big, strong athlete but, at the same time, I’m going to do everything I can to put him under pressure and make sure I’m doing my job.
“I’ve got to worry about my edge and he’s not the only one out there.
“You’ve got Boyd Cordner coming that way and Tedesco and them boys have got a feel for each other now so it’s the whole team we’ve got to worry about.”
After taking down the Storm in Melbourne last week, a victory over the Roosters would likely propel Souths to premiership favouritism.
But Gagai knows the Rabbitohs will need to be inch perfect against Trent Robinson’s men, who are humming themselves after a slow start to 2018.
“They’re a completely different side to what they were at the start of the year so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything right,” he said.
“We have to make sure we don’t give them cheap possession because if you give them all of the ball they’ve definitely got the strike power in their team to do some damage.”