Before the 2017 season begun, Cam McInnes was an off-season signing which raised a few eyebrows; now he’s a representative player who has an eventual State of Origin call-up in his sights.
Having been a solid performer for the Rabbitohs, McInnes found himself on the outer in 2016 as his minutes – and eventually his entire starting role – was sacrificed for newcomer Damien Cook. Playing in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW and forced to look elsewhere, the 23-year-old found a new home at the Dragons, replacing their own outgoing rake Mitch Rein. The fact that he now finds himself in a KARI City Origin jersey, McInnes explains, is proof the move was a good one.
“I’ve just enjoyed the first part of the year at the Dragons and loving playing footy at the club there,” McInnes tells NSWRL.com.au. “I feel I’ve improved – and obviously to make a rep team in City is a great honour and reward.
“Country have got a strong side and City, we have a strong side as well. A good game against high-quality players is always going to do yourself good.
Since showing glimpses of his best last year, the Botany Rams junior has been in career-best form and has made the VB Blues Team of the Week three times in 2017 – more than any other hooker in the competition. That string of good performances has led to many already suggesting he’s a future Origin player, including NSW VB Blues legend Danny Buderus.
“To get your name tossed in that circle is a good thing, but I’ll just see how I go on Sunday,” McInnes adds. “I’ll just put my best foot forward and whatever happens, happens.”
It can be argued, of course, that 2017 Cam McInnes is exactly the type of player the Country v City fixture was designed for; he is by no means a certainty for future Origin appearances, but the no.9 gets the chance to impress in a representative jersey to gain the attention of VB Blues coach Laurie Daley. As the curtain closes on what has been an important event on the Rugby League calendar, McInnes is just grateful to play in it once.
“It’s a great honour and privilege to play, I used to love watching it when I was a kid,” McInnes says. “I was so happy to get the call that I get the chance to play in it before it’s finished – I’m really excited.
“To get my first City jersey in the last game, it’s perfect timing and I’m very lucky.”
While some NRL clubs have reportedly held back their stars from playing in the Country v City clash, the same cannot be said about the Dragons – coach Paul McGregor offered up seven players for the game, reduced to six with an injury to Euan Aitken. McInnes is happy to have been given the opportunity to play alongside and against his club teammates.
“’Mary’ (McGregor) and the club haven’t held us back at all,” McInnes adds. “They want to encourage us to get these rewards for playing strong footy.
Even if they tried to hold me back, I don’t think I would’ve let them! It’s an important part of the game and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
“It’ll be interesting [playing against Dragons teammates]. Seeing some of the damage that they’ve done, it will be interesting playing against them.
“I’ve become pretty close with all of them, so it’ll be exciting.”
One former teammate who McInnes will face on Sunday is Cook, whose name has similarly been thrown into the Origin mix if incumbent Robbie Farah is to be overlooked. Whether or not McInnes can force an Origin selection this year, he will be hopeful of a strong performance to project his playing career into the next level. See both star hookers in action tomorrow from 4pm as the final match commences at Glen Willow Sports Complex.
Secure your seat at the final ever Country-City clash in Mudgee on Sunday, 7 May. Purchase tickets today to witness history as the curtain draws on a great Rugby League tradition.