South Sydney hooker Cameron McInnes wants to set the record straight.
The heir to Issac Luke’s throne is likely to ascend to a starting gig for Sunday’s NRL season-opener against arch-rivals Sydney Roosters, and he’s desperate to prove some critics wrong.
“People like to say that I’m not much of a running hooker,” he told AAP.
“But growing up in SG Ball, under-20s and reserve grade, I’d run upwards of 10-15 times a game, so it’s not true at all.”
McInnes, who has previously been compared to the NRL’s premier No.9 Cameron Smith, has spent the past two seasons playing understudy to the New Zealand international, playing just 20 games since his 2014 debut.
But half of them have been plugging in as a loose forward in the middle of the ruck, perhaps explaining why some consider him far different to Redfern’s scheming fan-favourite in Luke.
“The game that I’ve played in first grade up until this point is not the game that I’m happy with because I’ve played 20 games and only half of them have been at hooker,” he said.
“The rest have been in the back row.
“And coming into first grade, it takes confidence to play your natural game, which has taken longer for me to get to, but this year it’s a focus of mine.
“I want to break the shackles and play my own game.”
But he’ll have to do it while sharing hooking duties with new signing Damien Cook, who hinted coach Michael Maguire might stray from the traditional dual-hooker system and play both at the same time.
“When he goes to lock, and I’m at hooker, we could have a good combo there,” Cook said.
“It helps when there’s another hooker on there, when you’ve been hammered in defence for a set or two and need a breather. It gets you re-charged and ready to go again.”
Cook arrives at the club after impressing in the absence of injured Canterbury rake Michael Lichaa for the Bulldogs’ finals run in 2015, leading to interest from the Rabbitohs late in the year.
The 24-year-old said he began talks with the club to re-sign this year, but feared for his career playing behind a healthy Lichaa.
“A few weeks leading into my first game last year, Lichaa was looking very fit and he was getting through all the games. As long as he stayed fit, I wasn’t going to get a run at all there,” he said.
“It got to the stage where I ended up just wanting to enjoy my time in reserve grade. But when I got the chance, I was ready for it and here I am now.”