As the Dragons sit atop the NRL ladder, one new recruit is central – literally – to the surprising success of the Red V – and VB Blues coach Laurie Daley has given a strong indication that Paul Vaughan could don the sky blue come State of Origin time.
Vaughan, who arrived at the Dragons after being in and out of the Canberra Raiders first grade outfit last season, is an early contender for the signing of the year. Third among the league’s forwards in metres run (998 metres) while averaging more than 30 tackles a game, the Italy international has had a dominant start to 2017 and has made five of the six VB Blues Teams of the Week so far. Speaking on NRL360 tonight, Daley was asked about his Origin chances.
“Yeah,” Daley said simply. “To be truthful, at the start of the year, probably (he was) not on the list of the best players that we were looking at.
“With his performances, I think you have to take a look at him because he’s been a standout.”
The 25-year-old has forced his way into Daley’s Origin considerations with six strong games this season, but Vaughan’s previous experience will also help his cause.
“The other thing with him is he’s played some rep football before. So he’s played for Country – didn’t play well last year (in the Country-City clash) mind you – then was dropped and sort of went off our radar because he wasn’t playing,” Daley said.
“At the start of the year we identified blokes that we were sort of looking at and we were going to have an in-depth look at – he wasn’t one of them. But just through the performances so far this year he is someone that we definitely have to look at.”
With the Dragons enjoying top spot on the NRL table, a very willing forward pack can partially be attributed to their run of form. Daley likes what he sees at the St George Illawarra side, which is stacked with NSW-eligible players.
“I’ve been really impressed with the Dragons this year,” Daley said. “I think they’re a genuine top-eight team, I really do. I like their forwards; they’re tough, they go forward.
“A lot of people expected them to be down below. People have sat back and gone 'you know what? They’re actually better than we thought'.”
If the Dragons continue with their impressive showings, their invaluable prop might just find himself in the VB Blues outfit come Origin I at Suncorp Stadium. See Laurie Daley LIVE on NRL360 each week, Monday, from 6:30pm (AEST).