NRL hopeful reveals GI's influence

For a young Jacob Gagai, the dream was always to play rugby league.

The Canterbury Cup NSW Newcastle Knights fullback stared at the screen, starry-eyed, hoping one day he may also run out to the same furore his childhood idols did, in particular Greg Inglis.

His brother, Dane, got to share the stage with Inglis for South Sydney and Queensland, and although Jacob never did he admits he has still had an impact on his life.

“He’s had a big role in my life,” Jacob concedes.

“Obviously being an Indigenous boy and seeing GI at such a young age with the career he’s had, I’m sure for all young Indigenous football players he’s such a big role model.”

When asked of particular memories that stand out from Inglis’ career, his fend has been a popular choice from many past and current players.

Some have labelled him the most athletic the game has ever seen.

For Jacob though, he struggled to pinpoint one specific moment or attribute that stood out.

“Every game,” he laughs when asked.

“He’s a freak.”

Inglis’ achievements on the field are lengthy: 263 NRL matches, 39 Tests for Australia, 32 State of Origins for Queensland and a host of individual awards too extensive to mention.  Just as valuable though, has been his work off the field.

“He’s done a lot in Indigenous communities, going out and giving back,” Jacob says.

“That’s obviously something all the young players want to take in; how much of a leader he is.”

While Jacob admits that Inglis’ early retirement was upsetting for Dane, his brother has always been supportive of his close friend and won’t allow it to distract him.

“He’s obviously a bit bummed about it, him and GI were pretty close,” he says.

“But Dane is pretty sweet like that, he won’t let it phase him too much.”

“The Bunnies are in for a big year and I’m sure he is worrying about that and having success.”

With Inglis’ departure from the field comes the opportunity for more of the game’s Indigenous stars like brother Dane and Rooster Latrell Mitchell to lead the way.

And Jacob is excited for that future, one he hopes to be a part of.

But in the meantime, he knows the game has lost one of its greatest ambassadors, both on and off the field.

“100% - he was one of my idols,” he said.

“It’s sad to see him go at this time of year and at such short notice, he will be missed.”