Dane Gagai, pictured at an indigenous leadership camp, will play for the Maori All Stars.
Dane Gagai, pictured at an indigenous leadership camp, will play for the Maori All Stars.

Gagai's mixed emotions

Dane Gagai was one of the players who helped create the Indigenous All Stars war cry.

Now he's preparing to face it.

The South Sydney and Queensland star has switched sides and will play against the Indigenous team at AAMI Park on Friday night.

This time he will be representing his mother's Maori heritage. He has previously represented his father's Aboriginal heritage at three All Stars fixtures.

But when the opportunity to learn more about his mother's culture and the Maori history arose, it was too good to pass up.

Gagai admitted it was an emotional decision to make, but his mother was ecstatic.

"It was obviously a tough decision. I'm lucky enough to have two strong cultures and I'm equally proud of both," Gagai said in All Stars camp in Melbourne.

"I've been able to represent the indigenous All Stars the past couple of years now. The opportunity (to play for the Maori) came up, and everything Mum did for me growing up to put me in this position, words can't even describe how grateful I am.

 

"To be able to represent her side of the family is something special.

"She was obviously over the moon. She didn't really believe me at first but once it sunk it she was excited.

"I'm flying her down for the game, she'll be coming with my partner and my little boy."

While his passion for the Maori culture is strong, Gagai admits he has no idea how he will feel when he lines up opposite his former Indigenous teammates.

Especially when the Indigenous team performs the pre-game war cry Gagai helped create as part of the playing group years ago.

Gagai has spent the week in Melbourne trying to learn the Maori haka, which they will perform before the game.

"I've thought about it and I guess I won't know until I'm actually there facing the boys when they do their war cry," he said.

"I was there when they were coming up with it, and now I'll be on the receiving end of it."

Gagai flatly ruled out any chance of him joining in both war cries.

"I'm here and all my focus is going into (the Maori)," he said.

"I'm grateful to have two strong cultures but I'm here to represent the Maori and that's what I'm going to be doing.

"In saying that I'll be looking forward to seeing the boys do their war cry."

With one young son and another on the way, Gagai is determined to teach his children both the Aboriginal and Maori heritage of his family.

His first son, Dante, saw the Samoan team performing a haka on television and tried to copy it.

So Gagai wants to take the new Maori haka back home and teach his son that war dance. He may also teach him the Indigenous cry.

"He gets up there and slaps his legs and screams around the house ... it's good," Gagai laughed.

"I want to learn as much as I can so I can pass it onto my son. I've got another boy on the way now so I want to take as much in and teach them as much as I can."

 

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