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26 Jun 2024 7:40
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    How Cam McInness, rugby league's unbreakable man, is ready to make his mark on State of Origin

    When they talk about players being made for Origin they're talking about Cam McInnes, and the belated New South Wales debutant is striving to make his mark for his state.

    - article from

    Cam McInnes is one of the NRL's true roughnecks but the Cronulla hardman has a different definition of toughness than most ahead of his State of Origin debut.

    It's not spilling blood every time he trains and plays, although McInnes does do that. It's not playing without a row of front teeth, although he does that as well.

    It's not even coming back from a knee injury that wiped out a whole season amid a club and positional switch when a New South Wales jersey seemed in the offing even though, you guessed it, that's exactly what happened to McInnes.

    "Everyone who plays in the NRL and especially in this environment, you have to have that physical toughness," McInnes said.

    "You have to be able to run through a brick wall or stand in front of someone running straight at you. That's tough, of course it is, but it's more about doing your job over and over again no matter what.

    "The teams who stick at it for the longest, that's toughness. Attention to detail, that's toughness to me."

    Sticking at it is something the newly minted Blues lock knows plenty about. At 30, he's a little older than most Origin debutants but his entry into the game's toughest arena has been a long time coming.

    McInnes is the kind of player who's bigger than his stats, although he's got some impressive ones if you're that way inclined – he broke the NRL record for tackles in match when he made 81 in a single game last year.

    He lives a hard life on the field, going into battles with the giants in the middle of the field because somebody has to and while things like toughness, commitment and resilience are just words for other people, they're a way of life for McInnes.

    In short, he does the kind of things people talk about when they say someone is made for Origin, the things that turn players like Reuben Cotter and Lindsay Collins into folk heroes.

    McInnes has come close a couple of times before, especially during the COVID affected series in 2020 when he was part of the wider New South Wales squad.

    He was a hit with the Blues coaching staff with his attitude and professionalism during camp – so much that assistant coach and now Cronulla mentor Craig Fitzgibbon told him that no matter where Fitzgibbon ended up coaching in the NRL, he'd sign McInnes.

    He came close to his debut, acting as 18th man for the series opener and would have been in the frame the following season if not for a knee injury over the summer that ruled him out for the year.

    Since then he's changed clubs, heading from the Dragons to the Sharks, and moved positions from hooker to lock. Any chance of playing Origin football seemingly vanished, or at the very least went right on the backburner.

    "When I did the knee I knew I was going to the Sharks to play a new position so Origin became the furthest thing from my mind," McInnes said.

    "I had to get back on the field and learn the nuances of a new position. As I got older I learned not to put my head where it doesn't need to be.

    "But I'm always that kid with dreams. I wouldn't say I gave up hope, but I'm always realistic with things. I knew I'd try my best to make it happen, that's all I can do."

    McInnes' best has turned out to be plenty. Since joining the Sharks he's reinvented himself as one of the top lock forwards in rugby league and arguably the toughest.

    He puts plenty of that attitude and intensity down to Maguire, who guided him through the ranks at South Sydney and gave him his NRL debut back in 2014.

    "We always had a great relationship, he brought a lot of us through – Angus Crichton, Luke Keary, plenty of other blokes who have gone on to success at other clubs," McInnes said.

    "We're his kids he brought through, we spoke the other night about how grateful we are for the training he put us through and the lessons he taught us.

    "At the time you only think about how hard it is, but we knew nothing else. So now we know how to deal with anything because of what we were dealing with back then."

    It's an attitude that should put him in good stead for next Wednesday night. McInnes will be tasked with locking up the middle of the field defensively for the Blues and ensuring they bring the physicality in the torrid opening stages.

    For that particular job, New South Wales have nobody better than McInnes. He stops short of saying he'll die to win – that's a younger man's boast and McInnes isn't one for posturing – but he's ready for whatever comes as he looks to make his state proud.

    "When you're a kid you live and die for it, don't you? It's the best time of the year and that's stayed the same as I've gotten older," McInnes said.

    "I'm passionate, I love my footy and every time I take the field I'm ready to die – not literally, but I'll do whatever it takes.

    "We got the chance to talk to the old boys the other night and that really resonated with me.

    "To see the passion of those guys, even 30 or 40 years later, it's unbelievable how much it means to them and to fans everywhere. This is a great honour individually, but it comes with a responsibility to look after those people.

    "We take that seriously, Madge (Michael Maguire) has stressed how important it is. That's what Origin is to me, doing the state justice."

    [sports newsletter]

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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