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Dragons captain Cameron McInnes.

Cameron McInnes no longer regards himself solely as a hooker and his willingness to embrace a new role could help his State of Origin ambitions.

The Dragons captain will return to the hooking role for Thursday's match against South Sydney, the club he appeared destined to captain before the emergence of Blues rake Damien Cook.

The move was forced by Ben Hunt reverting to halfback after Adam Clune was concussed last weekend.

McInnes and Cook are considered the top two hookers in NSW, with little separating them before Cook was given the nod over McInnes in 2018. The Rabbitohs No.9 has since played in back-to-back series wins.

Indigenous stars raise their voice

However, the hooking duel is unlikely to help determine the Origin fate of Cook and McInnes, as it may have in recent seasons, because the Dragons star has demonstrated in the last seven weeks that he could also be an option for the NSW interchange in place of injured Roosters lock Victor Radley.

"I guess it's good that I can do both so if the team need me to play hooker I will do that but I think that before I viewed myself as a hooker who could play lock whereas now, to be honest, I don't really have a preference for either," McInnes said.

"I view myself as a footy player more than a positional player so hooker, lock or wherever, I don’t mind. As long as I am playing footy I am happy. I really enjoy both, which is pretty pleasing to come out of this season for me."

The move to lock has enabled McInnes to do slightly less tackling but more running with the ball, and his  fellow forwards have spoken about how he has been able to direct them around easier.

Hunt has also revelled in the hooking role after being selected as the interchange utility for the round five win against Cronulla before taking on the dummy-half duties fulltime four weeks later.

"I think the way that Hunty plays hooker and I play hooker is probably very, very different," McInnes said.

"He is so creative, he has got a great kicking game out of there, whereas I suppose the way I play, I pride myself on defence, work-rate and things like that.

“At lock, I feel that I can do the same things in defence but I am able to run the ball a bit more, which I really enjoy doing.

"Sometimes at hooker, I probably get in the mode of where the ball needs to go so I very much enjoy that No.13 role and I feel it has been working very well for the team."

Bunker officials dropped for Williams try ruling

Since St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor handed Clune his debut and made the positional changes, the Dragons have won four of their seven matches and lost in controversial circumstances last weekend after the Bunker incorrectly awarded a try to Sharks forward Jack Williams.

With Clune and interchange forward Trent Merrin ruled out because of the five-day turn-around after failing HIA's last Saturday night, McInnes and Hunt will return to their more traditional positions against the Rabbitohs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

Dragons utility Ben Hunt.
Dragons utility Ben Hunt. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

There had been speculation that rival clubs may make a move for McInnes if he was unhappy not playing hooker but the 26-year-old said he hoped to stay at St George Illawarra beyond next season.  

"I'm not looking to go elsewhere. I am only under contract for next year but hopefully, good things happen and we work it out," he said.

While McGregor loses two players, he also welcomes back second-rower Tariq Sims and winger Jordan Pereira from suspension.

Jackson Ford will start at lock, with Tyrell Fuimaono moving to the interchange after deputising for Sims last week, along with prop Josh Kerr, second-rower Jacob Host and back Tristan Sailor.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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