Cameron McInnes has dropped a bombshell on the Dragons on the eve of the 2021 season, signing with bitter rivals Cronulla.
The St George Illawarra skipper is set to leave the club at the end of the season to join the Sharks on a four-year deal, said to be worth $2.4 million.
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The 27-year-old has been the best player at the Dragons for the past two seasons but has not been offered a contract by the club beyond the end of 2021.
It’s a move that is sure to anger fans given McInnes has been the most consistent player for the side in recent years, and was only last year handed the club captaincy.
McInnes’ leadership was thought to be crucial for the Dragons to rediscover success under new coach Anthony Griffin.
“We were well aware throughout our discussions with Cameron and his management that he wanted his future sorted prior to the season commencement,” Dragons general manager of football Ben Haran said.
“There's always a process to contractual negotiations, but with our club going through a significant transition it's fair to say that Cameron and the club were working on different time frames.
“We understood why he wanted his future sorted immediately, which has since led to Cameron and his family securing an opportunity elsewhere.
“Cameron is a quality player and person who has brought a lot to St George Illawarra since arriving in 2017, and we're looking forward to him again playing a huge role in his final season at the club.”
The Dragons have been linked for some time with a swoop for Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough, who has worked with Griffin in the past.
While the Sharks already have Blayke Brailey at hooker, coach John Morris confirmed McInnes will play lock, where he has played intermittently for the Dragons in 2020.
“He can play lock equally as well as he can play dummy half and that versatility, especially in the modern game, is very attractive to our club,” Morris said.
“Cameron has been brought mainly to play lock and will complement Blayke Brailey at hooker in a potent No.9 and No.13 combination that should have all Sharks fans very excited.
“Cameron ticks all the boxes for us in that he has great attitude, he competes on every play and is an excellent defender.
“But not only is he respected for what he can do on the field, he is of outstanding character, is a thorough professional who looks after himself and we are adding someone to our squad who is a leader and will be a major asset to our young developing players.”
The Sharks will be the third club for NSW Origin hopeful McInnes, after starting his career with South Sydney in 2014 before moving to the Dragons in 2017.
Wow, massive loss Lara. That's A leader of men that walked out the door, right there. Incredible.
— Mal Cole (@MalCole1947) February 1, 2021
Oh, Dragons, what have you done???
— Greg Prichard (@gregprichard) February 1, 2021
Deadset disgrace from the @NRL_Dragons . Good luck to Cam though.
— Ryan O (@RRyandx77) February 1, 2021
wow, this is just insane from the dragons. mcinnes is easily, without a single doubt, the best player at the dragons.
— anthony leiper (@ch00nz) February 1, 2021
Dragons are hopeless
— Desmond A Wapen (@des_wapen) February 1, 2021
Shocking result for the @NRL_Dragons to lose Cameron McInnes to their local rivals. McInnes has led for the way for the club and has been their best & most consistent player for the Red V in recent times. Dragons fans won't be happy with this one. @2GB873 #NRL
— Andrew Lucas (@LucasLowdown9) February 1, 2021
Absolutely devastated to see McInnes leave the @NRL_Dragons . Our management are an absolute disgrace for letting him go. Just dumb.
— Ryan O (@RRyandx77) February 1, 2021
Cameron McInnes at odds with new coach?
Earlier on Monday veteran broadcaster Ray Hadley reported that McInnes preferred the coaching style of former mentor Paul McGregor to that of Griffin.
“If [McCullough] signs, you’ll see captain Cameron McInnes start the season at lock,” Hadley said on 2GB on Monday.
“Now I want to give Cameron McInnes a tip, but when the coach was appointed - Anthony Griffin - he was carrying on.
“He’s the captain of the team he’s entitled to his say. [But] It’s not a really smart move to say I like the other coach better – Paul McGregor – and I don’t think this bloke is as good as him.
“He didn’t say that exactly, but that’s what he meant.
“Given he has no confidence in the coach, I’d imagine the coach is saying I need someone who’s got confidence in me and you’re not one of them.
“So the Dragons may face an uphill battle to retain Cameron, who I think spoke prematurely as sometimes young blokes do.
“Maybe he’d be well-placed to come out now and say, ‘look I’ve now got to know Anthony Griffin. I think he can do the job and I hope I’m part of the plans’. That may redeem him in the eyes of the coach.”
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