Dane Gagai says he now understands why Xavier Coates is nicknamed "Little GI" after the teenager's accomplished all-round debut for the Maroons.
Gagai, in his 14th Origin game and playing in the centres, set up winger Coates for a crucial second half try in the Maroons 18-14 win in Adelaide with the Broncos flyer finishing with power and an extra kick to leave Blues defenders in his wake.
Speaking ahead of the second game of the Ampol State of Origin series in Sydney, Queensland veteran Gagai described the similarities he saw between the 194cm Coates and Maroons great Greg Inglis.
"I can see the height and speed. Actually that's the one thing I've spoken about in camp, it's pretty impressive to see a 19-year-old kid that big that can move that quick," Gagai said
"I think he's about 106 kilos and he's up there with the fastest in the NRL so that's pretty impressive and he's got a long future ahead of him.
"One of the things GI had was that size and speed."
Welcome to Origin, Xavier Coates
Coates made 122 metres from 17 tough runs in Adelaide but there were other dimensions of his play that Gagai said were Origin-like.
"I thought he was outstanding. He didn't get overwhelmed by the situation and he was pretty composed out there and he was talking throughout the game," Gagai said.
"He didn't go into his shell, that's for sure. He took a high ball and Jack Wighton got a good piece of him and he just got up and played the ball, and that's what Origin is all about… making the big plays.
"He solved another problem when Cleary put a grubber in and he stopped that."
The Maroons will look to exploit Coates's phenomenal ability in the air in Sydney. Former Brisbane Lions AFL star Daniel Merritt did some work with Coates and other Broncos outside backs after he retired. Broncos assistant coach Kurt Richards said Merritt was blown away by Coates' jump for the ball.
"Xavier's leap is unbelievable. When I got Daniel Merritt in to do work with the catchers when Wayne [Bennett] was there he said 'I'd like to get this kid over to the Brisbane Lions now'," Richards told NRL.com
"It was phenomenal how high he was getting and Daniel couldn't believe it, and he had just finished his career with the Lions at that time.
"Once Xavier gets those kicks put in the right spot I don't think anyone will get up there with him. He is very much like Israel Folau in the air."
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Coates was coached by 1999 Storm premiership-winner Matt Geyer at Marymount College on the Gold Coast. Geyer said Coates had deserved his Maroons opportunity and insisted his best was yet to come.
"He has got high jump and long jump records for regionals and been to state titles for both. He can jump. You don't need to teach him how to catch a ball above his head," Geyer told NRL.com.
"The big thing for me with Xavier is that his so young and has been in a team that was well beaten this year, but he has still managed to come out of it looking good. His stocks have gone up this year, where a lot of people at the Broncos haven't.
"He is on the wing and a lot of the time your performance is reactive to how the team is going but if the Broncos turn things around and get on the front foot we are going to see an even better version of young Xavier.
"In Origin, if he can get behind a pack going forward and halves that are going to use him to his strengths then he will be fine. He has already shown that the physicality isn't a problem for him."
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Meanwhile Gagai said the Maroons were expecting the Blues to come out all guns blazing in Sydney.
"The job's only half done now," Gagai said.
"There's still two more games left and we've just got to make sure we do everything we can to prepare and be better than we were because we're going have to be if we want to be a chance of beating New South Wales."
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