DANE Gagai kissed a message written on his wrist and then looked lovingly towards the heavens.
The Knights winger had just slid over in the right corner to give Queensland what proved a match-winning 6-4 lead approaching half-time in the Origin series opener .
It was the 25-year-old’s second try, in his second Origin appearance.
His first was in the series-clincher last year. Although the stakes weren’t as high at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, this one clearly held a special place.
The post-try celebration was a tribute to his grandmother, who passed away in Mackay a last month, and capped a roller coaster of events for the proud Maroon.
He broke down in the arms of teammate Tariq Sims after the Knights’ 62-0 hammering to the Sharks – his 100th NRL appearance -- a fortnight ago.
As he walked from the field he was subjected to racial abuse. Earlier that morning, Gagai received the heart-breaking news that his grandmother had died.
Her funeral was last week, and he left the Maroons camp to return home to Mackay and say a final good bye.
In among the sadness, Gagai became a father for the first time to a baby boy, Dante.
Somehow, he managed to put aside his emotions to produce a power house display in a dour, bruising contest where opportunities for wingers were limited.
Gagai’s opening seven ball-carries were all grunt work, carting the ball back from kick returns and scooting out of dummy half. At half-time he had run a game-high 90 metres from 10 hit ups.
The breakthrough came, three minutes before the break. Jonathan Thurston threw a ball in behind for Darius Boyd to find Justin O’Neill who put Gagai into space.
Gagai nearly added a second try three minutes into the second half, only to be knocked into touch in a desperate cover tackle by James Maloney.
It was the start of a busy second half. In a 10-minute period from the 55th minute, he spilled a Robbie Farah grubber but recovered to clean-up, beat Michael Jennings to a ball in-goal and saved a certain try when he swatted down a pass.
Other than bumps and bruises, Gagai appeared to come through the game unscathed.
On Saturday, he will line up for the Knights against the Cowboys and Queensland teammates Jonathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Michael Morgan and NSW prop James Tamou.