IF Dane Gagai wants to silence the critics who claim he is a weak link in Newcastle's backline, he won't get a better chance than in Friday night's showdown with Gold Coast Titans at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The veteran centre has attracted scrutiny in recent weeks after a procession of missed tackles, both for Newcastle and Queensland.
In 11 games for Newcastle this season, the 31-year-old has missed 50 tackles - the most by any outside back in the NRL.
In his two appearances for Queensland in this year's Origin series, he has been been responsible for 17 lapses.
In his past four games for the Knights and the Maroons, Gagai has missed a collective tally of 32 tackles, which would be embarrassing for a rookie, let alone the most experienced player in Newcastle's squad.
Those statistics are unlikely to have been overlooked by the Titans, who have named wrecking ball David Fifita on their interchange bench, after spending the past month recovering from a knee injury.
Fifita is capable of playing on either flank, but last season he scored four tries against Newcastle in two games charging at their right-side defence, where is exactly where Gagai is likely to be stationed on Friday night.
He works extremely hard on both sides of the game, Dane. He reads the game really well.- ADAM O'BRIEN
Knights coach Adam O'Brien said he could understand the scrutiny Gagai's defence has attracted "if you're just looking at stats and numbers."
But he suggested statistics did not tell the full story. "There's obviously always different variables with it," O'Brien said.
"I know that he works extremely hard on both sides of the game, Dane. He reads the game really well.
"He's experienced, he's tenacious. If he bounces off, he normally gets them one metre later, so they do go down as misses, as well.
"So they can be a bit deceptive, the stats.
"But look, I'm happy with what he's doing with us. He works really hard on defence every day."
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