CAMERON McInnes insists that talk of a State of Origin debut has gone “over his head” but there are a growing number of punters willing to make the case for the St George Illawarra hooker following his impressive start to the season.
Incumbent Blues No. 9 Robbie Farah’s indifferent start to 2017 combined with a lack of depth in the NSW hooking ranks has seen virtually any able-bodied rake eligible for NSW put in the ‘Origin bolter’ category.
McInnes may well have moved himself out of that column and into the ‘contender’ category with an impressive rep debut for City on Sunday, winning his head-to-head duel with Country counterpart Damien Cook in a 20-10 victory.
Penrith veteran Peter Wallace and Gold Coast hooker Nathan Peats are other contenders should Laurie Daley choose to usher in the post-Farah era for game one but McInnes continues to make a compelling case – in action if not words.
“I don’t really read the papers or anything like that so the Origin talk’s probably gone over my head a little bit but I guess we’ll see what happens,” McInnes said.
“Obviously everybody wants to play in those sort of games but my focus when I came here was always on winning the number nine jersey for the Dragons and helping us win footy games.
“That’s still the goal. Definitely if I’m given the opportunity [to play Origin] I’d love to have a crack at it but I’ll just take it as it comes.”
In the face of mass withdrawals from the City-Country fixture, McInnes proved a beneficiary of Dragons coach Paul McGregor’s attitude of encouraging his players to earn rep jumpers with the likes of Jack de Belin and Paul Vaughan also mounting a strong case for maiden Blue jumpers.
While there were certainly some battered bodies to come out of the clash, McInnes said being part of rep weekend has left his side recharged ahead of Friday local derby against Cronulla at Kogarah.
“It was a good experience for myself and a couple of other Dragons boys who got to play,” McInnes said.
“Mary just said put your best foot forward, play for yourself, your family, your country… whatever region you were representing and do yourself and the club proud.
“It’s change of scenery and you get to see how players from other clubs do things and there were quite a few experienced guys in the side so to get to learn off them was good as well.
“I learned a lot and was happy to come away with the win.”
While the likes of McInnes, de Belin and Vaughan used the clash to press their Origin claims, the match also proved a huge boost for young-gun Hame Sele who earned a City call-up just four games into his first grade career.
“I was pretty nervous before I went out there but I was really grateful I got the call-up to play in the City team and it felt good to get the win,” Sele said.
“It all happened pretty fast, I’ve only played four NRL games and got a rep call-up but the week was really good. Freddie [coach Brad Fitler] was good teaching us a lot and was really calming influence as well.
“Paul Gallen was a really great leader out there with his words and his actions and Jimmy Tamou was really good as well so it was a great experience to be around those type of players.”