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When Michael Maguire phoned Cameron McInnes to tell him of his selection at lock for NSW, it was a special moment for the new Blues coach, as well as the Origin debutant.

Maguire was the first of three coaches McInnes has played under at NRL level and like Paul McGregor and Craig Fitzgibbon, he has always admired his toughness, selflessness and commitment.

“It was 10 years ago that Madge gave me my NRL debut and then to have him call me about my Origin debut was a pretty surreal moment,” McInnes said.

“He just told me that I was in, and then said how special it was for him too, which was cool.”

Cameron McInnes will make his Blues debut in Origin I at Accor Stadium.
Cameron McInnes will make his Blues debut in Origin I at Accor Stadium. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

By his own admission, McInnes wasn’t as “polished” at hooker as Api Koroisau, Issac Luke, Robbie Farah and Damien Cook, who he worked alongside at South Sydney during Maguire’s rein.

McInnes is the type of player that coaches love. He is honest, hardworking, always puts the team first and sets high standards for himself and his team-mates.   

As the game has evolved in recent years, so has McInnes, who began his transition from hooker to lock under McGregor at the Dragons and has now shifted to the role fulltime in Fitzgibbon’s Sharks outfit.

“Cam’s not a positional player, he is a footballer, and he doesn’t care whether he plays No.9 or No.13, he’ll just play it the same way in a tough manner," McGregor said.

“The good thing about Cam is he knows his strengths and he knows his weaknesses, and he closes the gap on the weaknesses so you can’t really see them, while his strengths stand out."

Fitzgibbon said McInnes had all the qualities needed for the Origin arena.

Inside Camp: Cam McInnes

"It's nice to see a guy like Cam after a long career of hard work, some setbacks with a knee injury a few years ago, and a change of clubs, get a crack," Fitzgibbon said.

"At 30 years of age I think he is really starting to understand the role that he plays for the team." 

Yet as he prepares to run out with No.13 on his back, after edging Blues stalwart Isaah Yeo to the bench for the Origin series opener, McInnes recalls the criticism when he first made the switch from hooker.

“I guess in footy, and in life, you just get pigeonholed,” McInnes said.

“People would say, ‘he’s just a hooker’, but if you really think about it … I was probably a little bit old school and I think the way that the game's gone, it actually really suits me; being a bit smaller and running the ball, trying to use my feet.

“The tackling is the same as hooker anyway, and I probably think I've played better footy at lock than I ever did at hooker.”

At Souths, McInnes was touted as a future captain but with Cook and Farah blocking his path to the No.9 jersey he moved to the Dragons, where Mcgregor also recognised his leadership qualities.

Cameron McInnes and Paul McGregor share a close bond.
Cameron McInnes and Paul McGregor share a close bond. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

After leaving the Dragons in the wake of McGregor's sacking for Cronulla, McInnes has now taken over the Sharks captaincy.

“He says it how it is, and he tells people how it should be. He is all about team first and that’s why I made him captain because they are the type of qualities I like to build my team around," McGregor said.

“Still to this day it has got me absolutely gob-smacked why he isn’t still at the Dragons.

“Good coaches want those type of people because you value them, and they keep you straight too. They are straight up and down guys who will challenge you if they don’t think something is right and that’s what you want in your organisation.

“You want people there that are willing to do what’s needed to win, but also pull other people along and pull other people up. Cam is the ideal clubman and ideal leader of a club."

In a demonstration of how his career has now come full circle, McInnnes said he learned many of those values under Maguire at the Rabbitohs.

New Blues: Dylan Edwards, Spencer Leniu, Zac Lomax, Haumole Olakau'atu, Joseph Suaalii and Cameron McInnes will debut for NSW in Origin I.
New Blues: Dylan Edwards, Spencer Leniu, Zac Lomax, Haumole Olakau'atu, Joseph Suaalii and Cameron McInnes will debut for NSW in Origin I. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Along with McInnes, Angus Crichton, Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i and Luke Keary, who is a member of the 20-man Blues squad, all have an association with Maguire from his time in charge of Souths. 

“We all spoke about what he taught us and that environment," McInnes said. "We owe him so much because we wouldn't be where we are now as players without that hardness, those values and how to professional that he taught us.

“Some of the stuff might not get through the RLPA these days but that's what it took and without that who knows ... so I’m very indebted to him.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've loved footy and I've always taken my training and preparation pretty seriously, and I've had a lot of good coaches along the way.

“It was a tough time with Mary moving on at the Dragons, but we're talking about another coach who I've been very lucky to have had.

“I'm very lucky now to have a coach [Fitzgibbon] who has won Wally Lewis Medals and I’ve learned so much off him too. He told me I'm ready, so I'll trust him."


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Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour 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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