James Roberts' switch is having an immediate effect.
James Roberts' switch is having an immediate effect.

What Jet’s landing means for Gagai

Wayne Bennett has dropped a State of Origin bombshell on Maroons star Dane Gagai with the super coach to axe him as South Sydney centre to make way for James Roberts.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Roberts' mid-season signing with Souths will have direct ramifications for Gagai, who must confront a positional switch to the wing at Redfern just 72 hours after arriving in Camp Maroon for Origin I.

After starting the season on the wing, Gagai has impressed in his last nine games at right centre, but he will return to the flanks as Bennett prepares to unleash "The Jet" in the No.4 jumper.

Roberts' defection to the Rabbitohs from Brisbane was so rapid Bennett didn't have time to personally contact Gagai in Origin camp, but the super coach believes the Maroons ace will embrace the move.

"James will play right centre," Bennett said.

"Dane Gagai is our current right centre, but he will go to the wing."

Asked if Gagai was aware of his positional reshuffle, Bennett said: "No, I haven't had a chat to 'Gags' yet, but I'm sure he won't have a problem with it.

"He has done a great job for us at centre but wing is a position Dane knows well.

It’s probably not the news Gagai wanted in Queensland training. Image: Adam Head
It’s probably not the news Gagai wanted in Queensland training. Image: Adam Head

"Braidon Burns is back soon (from injury) at left centre so we'll partner him with James hopefully in time.

"Dane likes playing in the centres but he's a team-oriented bloke and he won't stand in James' way.

"He is playing wing for Queensland so he can do it for us."

Gagai and Roberts both share indigenous ties and could form one of the most potent right-edge offensive pairings in the NRL with their fusion of power, strength and speed.

A La Perouse junior, Roberts launched his top-grade career at Souths in 2011 before being sacked for an off-field incident.

The Jet now returns to Redfern with 72 tries and 131 NRL games under his belt.

"They (Roberts and Gagai) will be good for each other on our right side)," Bennett said.

The former Broncos coach said Roberts always had a special place in his soul for South Sydney.

"Someone would have picked him up, but he has come to South Sydney for all the right reasons," he said.

"James started his career here, he scored his first try here, it's always been his great love even when he was at the Broncos to maybe finish his career at South Sydney.

"The players around James will help him."