Sharks captain Paul Gallen is stunned that the Dragons have lost inspirational skipper Cameron McInnes to their local rival, saying he can have a similar impact on Cronulla as 2016 title hero Michael Ennis.
McInnes, 27, signed a four year contract with Cronulla from next season (2022).
His exit had been speculated, with the Dragons trying to sign former Broncos, Knights and Queensland hooker Andrew McCullough; who worked with new Red V coach Anthony Griffin in Brisbane. Still, McInnes changes clubs for a similar scenario, playing lockdown rather than whore, and at a fair market rate of around $ 500,000 per season.
McInnes had explored his market options, previously being linked to his former Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire at Wests Tigers, and was eager to sign a new contract before the start of the upcoming season. This did not suit St George Illawarra and a possible reason arose shortly after McInnes’ bombing – the Dragons confirming their interest in signing of controversial cross-code superstar Israel Folau.
“There is still a process of contract negotiations but with our club going through a significant transition, it is fair to say that Cameron and the club were working on different timelines,” Dragons football general manager Ben Haran said in a statement.
Whatever the details, the Dragons just lost a popular captain and marginal NSW State of Origin player to their hated rivals.
“I can’t believe the Dragons let him go,” Gallen told Wide World of Sports, while stressing that he was unaware of the details of McInnes’ negotiations with either. other club.
“He might have told them 12 months ago that he wanted to test the free market, that’s probably a sign of their club’s situation I guess.
“Let go of the guy who has been your player of the year two years in a row, club captain and I know a born leader … I played with him in the City 2017 team and I remember having strongly supported him after that game to be the No.9 NSW, right on the back of his leadership and tenacity.
“Obviously Damien Cook has come to the forefront and taken it to another level, he really deserves it, but at that point it was a bit of a battle between these two to see who would get the Blues No.9 place. I was amazed at how good McInnes is and how tough he is.
“I think it’s a big plus for the Sharks too, I think it’ll really help Wade Graham. I know myself, being a leader at the club it’s hard to do it alone, you need help around you.
“I look at when Michael Ennis came to the club; he too was a whore and how much it helped me and how much it helped the club was endless. It was amazing. I think he (McInnes) can add that kind of value to the club.
“The Dragons, I don’t know what happened there. I don’t want to be too critical of them, maybe he said: ‘I test the market no matter what’; but you wouldn’t let a guy like that go out of his contract i don’t think so.
“From the outside looking in – not knowing exactly what’s going on with the Dragons, not knowing what he said at the club and whether they offered him a contract or numbers – you have to just shake your head, to be honest.
“To McInnes’ credit, he could have said from day one, ‘I’m testing the market.’ You can’t bag the Dragons too much if that’s what happened. But if it isn’t. what happened and they just missed the boat, well if you’re a Dragons fan you must be asking yourself some pretty serious questions. “
McInnes has agreed to play lock as the Sharks’ first option rather than a hooker, given that talented youngster Blayke Brailey currently sits in the No.9 Cronulla jersey and is signed until the end of next season. McInnes spent time at No.13 last year for St George Illawarra, with half-back Ben Hunt switching to hooker amid form struggles.
Although McInnes is undersized for an intermediate forward, he is a big-hearted player accustomed to heavy defensive workloads and could suit the new style of play in the NRL.
“I can’t imagine they would sign him to play hooker. I think they would sign him to play No 13,” Gallen said.
“With the way the game is going, with the way it is accelerating – and I think it’s only going to accelerate this year, with the rule of six going for the offside as well – that type of Fitter and slimmer body in the middle of the field is going to be quite practical, especially someone who can play long minutes.
“It’s Cam McInnes. We all know how tough he is, he is rock hard. I think it’s going to be a good fit for the club and if something happens to Blayke you’ve got a guy who can slip into the No. 9.
“You put in his leadership skills and his ability to help Wade Graham and the club in general, I think that’s a huge plus.”
Sharks coach John Morris was thrilled to have added McInnes to the 2022 roster, confirming he was seen as a lock.
“He can lock as well as he can play the dummy half and that versatility, especially in modern play, is very appealing to our club,” Morris said in a statement from Cronulla.
“Cameron was brought in mainly to lock play and will complete Blayke Brailey on hooker in a powerful combination of 9 and 13 that should thrill any Sharks fan. He’s a winner and we’re very happy that he agreed to us. join in 2022. “
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