Recall of Maroons warrior Gagai a masterstroke: Parker

Dane Gagai epitomises what a Queensland player is and understands the essence of what State of Origin footy is all about.

And that is why coach Billy Slater pulled a masterstroke to recall the veteran outside back.

Those are the views of former Maroons lock Corey Parker, who played in Gagai's debut in the Origin decider back in 2015 when the Maroons pulverised NSW 52-6 at Suncorp Stadium.

Gagai, 33, has since won Origin deciders in 2017, 2020 and 2022 at Suncorp, so it's no surprise Slater has recalled the Newcastle gun who has been named at centre for the July 17 showdown in Brisbane.

"Dane Gagai played 22 straight Origins and is the only player to win the Wally Lewis Medal (for player of the series) as a winger in State of Origin, which he did in 2017," Parker told AAP.

"The reason he is such a good Origin player is because he understands the enormity of the jersey he is wearing and takes it super personal.

"Dane wants to rip, tear, fight and do whatever he needs to do to win an Origin game and you see that in the aggressiveness with how he plays. 

"His Maroons performances have always been top shelf based on the fact that he never wants to let the jersey or his teammates down in the Origin arena. He understands and gets why Origin is what it is. That is also my understanding from playing alongside him."

Gagai, who was 18th man in game two of this year's series, has scored 12 tries in his 22 Origin matches.

He famously exchanged blows with NSW counterpart Matt Burton in the 2022 decider at Suncorp, won by the Maroons in what was his last game for Queensland.

“I just thought: ‘F... it, it’s Origin’,” Gagai said after the match.

“You are standing up for your mate and yourself. I ran in and gave him a shove, he stood up for himself, which is natural, and it was on after that.”

That mentality is what Parker, who played 19 Origin games, loves about Gagai.

"That is Origin and that is what we need," Parker said.

"Origin is different. You need class and skill in what you do but you need mongrel and you need to win the battles and he has shown that time and again. I just love the aggression that he brings."

Slater said he got a thrill when he told Gagai he was back in the team.

"We all know what Dane Gagai brings and we all know how important this footy team is to Dane," Slater said.

"He has played more than 20 Origins, he is a very passionate Queenslander and playing wonderful footy at the moment. 

"He wasn't just here for the sake of being here last camp (as 18th man), he was here for a reason and I'm really excited to see him back in a Maroons jumper."

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