Dane Gagai might have drawn the ire of Blues fans after he and Blues five-eighth Matt Burton were involved in a brawl in the Origin decider, but the Queensland winger showed another side of his game earlier on.
He and Burton were both hit with grade two striking charges and fined 23 per cent of their match payment, while Queensland's Tino Fa'asuamaleaui also copped a fine after he was charged with a grade two high tackle and grade one dangerous contact.
Neither Gagai nor Fa'asuamaleaui will be on any NSW fan's Christmas card list as a result, however Gagai won approval from all corners for protecting one of his teammates after a nasty collision early in the first half.
Gagai thought quickly when Queensland teammate Selwyn Cobbo was knocked unconscious after a nasty accidental collision with eventual Man of the Series, Patrick Carrigan.
Tensions flared when Blues star Jarome Luai stood over Cobbo, with Luai later claiming not to have realised how badly Cobbo had been hit.
As some push and shove erupted around Cobbo, who was lying defenceless on the ground, Gagai quickly swopped in to protect his young teammate from the rolling maul.
It's not the first time Luai has drawn heat for his taunts, famously photographed staring down Maroon Felise Kaufusi after he'd been dropped in last year's series opener.
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) July 13, 2022
Asked how the "grub" tag sat with him, Luai suggested it was water off a duck's back.
"They've always called me that," he said.
"As the fans of the sport, they need to take into consideration that they're not out there on the field."
League fans were impressed with Gagai's instinct to protect his teammate, rather than get involved in pointless argy-bargy - though he would later undo some of that goodwill in the Burton incident.
Huge props to Dane Gagai for shielding Selwyn Cobbo on the ground
— Matty Murbo Ⓥ (@MattMoylansLegs) July 13, 2022
Huge credit to Gagai for caring about nothing else than shielding Cobbo on the floor!! #StateofOrigin
— Todd G (@ToddyGreaser) July 13, 2022
Gagai shielded Cobbo, class act. Gagai clipping Burton was due to his disrespect towards Ponga. That's what mates do. I'd rather have Dane Gagai next to me in times of trouble. Nice work son. 👍
— Grunt111 (@Grunt1112) July 13, 2022
Yes I commented on that to my teens.
Gagai is all class.
— Shep (@shepoldfirm) July 13, 2022
@nrlphysio @nrlphysio @FOXNRL @NRL @pvlandys great protection by Gagai. Why did Luai get over a concussed player and try and be macho. How does he get punished for unsportsmanlike conduct. Horrible look celebrating a concussed player
— matt zellinsk (@zellinsk) July 13, 2022
No regrets for Jerome Luai over Selwyn Cobbo taunt
Luai was labelled a "grub" after he stood over Cobbo and taunted the winger after he'd been knocked unconscious early in Wednesday night's State of Origin decider.
But the five-eighth, who spoke to the Queensland youngster after the match, said he hadn't apologised, instead suggesting his actions were just part of a heated Origin rivalry.
"I actually didn't know he was knocked out," Luai said.
"But that's Origin, heat of the moment stuff and we play with a lot of passion.
"I spoke to him after the game and he was all good, so it was good to see that.
"I don't think I have anything to apologise for, there wasn't any harm, and I didn't touch him."
Queensland forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui admitted he was fired up after seeing the Cobbo incident from the sidelines.
"I felt like running on ... I was on the bench at the time and I was so angry about it," he told AAP.
"That's football, that's State of Origin, it's a tough game and it's always like that."
Fellow Maroon Kurt Capewell, who was a Penrith teammate of Luai's in 2020 and 2021, said it was what you should always expect from the five-eighth.
"It's Origin - if you're not firing up, you shouldn't be here," he told AAP.
"To be honest, 'Romes' obviously plays with his heart on his sleeve at all times.
"He brought it, we brought it, it was a great game of footy."
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