Tucking daughter Amelia into bed each night helped Sharks recruit Cameron McInnes to cope with a season on the sidelines recovering from a ruptured ACL while waiting to join his new club.
McInnes, who suffered the injury at St George Illawarra training just 10 days after signing with Cronulla last February, admits that he struggled with being unable to play his final season for the Dragons but the surgery enabled him to spend more time with Amelia and three-year old son, Noah.
Amelia, who is now 15-months old, was born shortly before McInnes went into camp with the NSW Origin team for five weeks at the end of the 2020 season and he would have moved to Brisbane when the NRL relocated in June if fit.
While the former Dragons captain was shattered not to be able to help the club’s 2021 Telstra Premiership campaign, he has always taken a pragmatic approach to the game and found an upside to his long recovery.
“In terms of not playing footy it was hard. I drove myself a bit crazy but at the same time we moved from Wollongong to Sydney, and we had my daughter late last year,” McInnes said.
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“Not a lot of footy players get to experience as much time with their newborns as I did. For the first year of her life I put her to bed every night.
“That is something you just don’t get as a footy player and whilst I would have loved to have played footy, I will always be able to look back and have that as well. You have got to take some positives and for me that was it.”
After the NRL teams moved to Queensland, McInnes began training with Sharks captain Wade Graham, who was also sidelined for the season due to a series of head knocks, and the bond they developed is likely to benefit Cronulla’s leadership group this season.
McInnes has been training since November 4 with his other new team-mates under incoming Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon, who has joined the club from Sydney Roosters.
Initially signed to play lock and act as a back-up for hooker Blayke Brailey, McInnes is unsure of his exact role with Blues forward Dale Finucane also joining Cronulla but he is happy to fit in wherever Fitzgibbon wants him.
“I am fortunate that I can play both hooker and lock, and Fitzy has mentioned that could be the case but we are a long way away from that,” he said.
“For me it is about getting some of that rust off - conditioning-wise I am in a good place but it’s just a case of getting those footy movements back. I’ll be doing some middle stuff and doing some hooker stuff and we will see what happens.
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“Blayke Brailey is the No. 9 as far as I am concerned but then there are a lot of great middles too so there is going to be some good competition for spots. For me, wherever I can fit in, I just want to play footy so it doesn’t really faze me where I play.
“Now that everyone is back, and we are doing footy stuff, it is exciting to get my head into it and feel a bit normal.”
McInnes insists he didn’t watch the Sharks intensely at the start of last season while rehabilitating from his knee surgery but was impressed by what he saw in their run home, particularly the likes of Will Kennedy and Braydon Trindall.
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“There is just so much attack and flair in the side,” he said. “They are really exciting to watch so I think you have that footy skill, which you can’t really coach, and Fitzy is going to bring that hard edge that he has had at the Roosters and at Origin.
“He has done everything in the game so he demands that, and it is going to be a good combination.”