THEY made up one of the more unheralded recruitment classes ahead of the 2017 season, but new Dragons additions Cameron McInnes and Paul Vaughan have wasted no time in underlining their value to the club this season.
Vaughan was deemed surplus to requirements at the Raiders last season while McInnes’ early career came largely as an understudy to former Rabbitohs rake Isaac Luke.
It meant their arrival in Wollongong came with some question marks but the pair impressed with their attitude in preseason and have hit the ground running with standout performances in victories over title-contenders Penrith and Cronulla in the opening three weeks.
With Nene McDonald also finding a home on the right flank, coach Paul McGregor said he’s “excited” by their efforts in their new start at the club.
“We always thought Paul was going to be big value to our side and he hasn’t let anyone down,” McGregor said.
“[With McInnes] it’s pleasing for a coach because if you’ve got a guy who can play 80 minutes in the middle at nine you can use your interchange a little bit more with your bigs and bring that next power bloke on.
“I think the forward pack at the moment, and especially [Sunday] night had to handle a lot of pressure and they did that well against a really dominant side in the Sharks.”
Vaughan was one of five Dragons forwards to run for more than 100 metres against the Sharks on Sunday and McInnes said his side’s big-men are quickly finding their groove in the middle.
“When we were rolling through the ruck there I had all my forwards just pushing up on the advantage line wanting the ball so I was just feeding them the ball and they were doing the work,” McInnes said.
“We felt good doing it, but it was just when we got down their end we probably had a bit of gas taken out of us and we weren’t able to execute but we took the points we had and got away with it.
“In the second half we made 37 tackles on our line and they only made eight so we were under the pump but we held on which is a good sign.
“I definitely feel at home now. As a spine we’re still working on it and we can get a lot better but I’m very comfortable playing with Gaz and Josh McCrone and Josh Dugan.
“The more footy I play with them the better we’re going to get, getting those combinations together and I love playing with them they’re a great group and I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
McInnes has also provided some touches of class from dummy-half, including a deft grubber for Euan Aitken’s first try on Sunday and said he’s continue to inject himself when opportunities present.
“All good hookers can create something down near the line,” he said.
“First and foremost, I just want to do my job for the team, get the forwards over the ad-line and make my tackles but when the defence gives me that, I’ve got to take those little opportunities because in tight games it can be the difference sometimes.”