ST GEORGE Illawarra recruit Paul Vaughan is relishing his fresh start with the Dragons after admitting the “writing was on the wall” for him in Canberra at the end of last season.
The home-grown Gunghalin product debuted for the Raiders in 2013, earned the first of three Country jumpers a year later and had been touted as a possible NSW debutant before falling out of favour with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart in the latter half of the 2016 season.
It saw the 25-year-old finish the regular season with to Mounties in the NSW Cup with Stuart opting for young guns Clay Priest and Josepeh Tapine as the main support acts to Australian Test debutant Shannon Boyd and 130-kilo wrecking ball Junior Paulo up front.
Vaughan earned a recall to the top grade after Priest injured his ankle in a training mishap, playing in the Raiders’ 22-12 semi-final win over Penrith and 14-12 preliminary final loss to Melbourne, but knew his opportunities would be limited if he remained in the Capital for the 2017 season.
“I played a fair few seasons there and came up through the juniors through the Harold Matts and SG Ball and that kind of thing but I think the writing was on the wall there,” Vaughan said.
“I thought I played OK and had a pretty good year, I got the Country jersey again. There were a few speed bumps there where it got a little bit rough but I’m still happy with it.
“We obviously had a really good year down there as a team getting one game away from the grand final. I was lucky enough to play in a few finals games which was good so I’m happy with that chapter at the Raiders but I knew I had to move on and start fresh.
“I think for myself I needed to get out of that comfort zone to move forward as a player and it was the best thing for me to come to Saints. It’s pretty much like starting my whole career over again and I’m stoked Saints are the club I get to do that at.
“When I first looked at the Dragons I could see that it was a forward pack I wanted to be a part of and hopefully I can contribute to that.
“The boys here are great and I’m looking forward to a really good year with them.”
Vaughan had a number of suitors, including Parramatta, Newcastle and Gold Coast, vying for his signature before the Dragons trumped them all with a three-year deal, worth a reported $1.75 million, to lure the three-time Country representative to Wollongong.
It will ensure his on-field performances will be the subject of intense scrutiny from the the Red V faithful but Vaughan believes the added expectation will bring out the best in him.
“It’s pressure but it’s good pressure and I like to think I can thrive on that,” he said.
“I don’t listen to the outside stuff too much because if you do it starts to play with your head but I know deep down in myself I’m my own harshest critic.
“The Dragons have a very strong fan base and it’s a traditional club and they’re very passionate people and I’m looking forward to really getting stuck in for them and playing some good footy.”