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Michael Maguire spotted in telling move as massive bolter emerges for NSW Origin side

The new Blues coach was seen in the crowd during Cronulla's win over Canberra.

Cameron McInnes has been touted as a bolter for the NSW State of Origin team this year, with Blues coach Michael Maguire spotted in the crowd during Cronulla's clash with Canberra last Sunday. Maguire was seen watching on from the stands as the Sharks came back from 18-0 down to beat the Raiders 36-22.

Most would assume Maguire was keeping a keen eye on Nicho Hynes, who would seemingly be the front-runner to partner Nathan Cleary in the halves for the Blues this year. But the new coach would also have been keeping watch on McInnes, who has emerged as a contender to win a spot on the NSW bench.

Michael Maguire, pictured here in the crowd keeping an eye on the likes of Cameron McInnes and Nicho Hynes.
Michael Maguire was spotted in the crowd keeping an eye on the likes of Cameron McInnes and Nicho Hynes. Image: Fox League/Getty

McInnes has transformed himself from a hooker to a back-rower in recent years, and is one of the Sharks' hardest working players on a week-by-week basis. The 30-year-old is one of the toughest players in the game and wouldn't look out of place in a sky blue jersey.

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McInnes was chosen to be part of a 34-player camp that Maguire held earlier this year for fringe State of Origin players, and made a huge impression on the new coach. “It was a special camp,” McInnes said afterwards. “There was a squad of 34 there and a few who couldn’t make it, but whoever gets the opportunity to make the team will be well supported.

“It’s not just about the 17, this is about everyone. It’s all about making sure that blue jersey becomes sacred again. This wouldn’t be my jersey, it would be NSW’s jersey. For me, that was a massive takeaway from that camp, and you could tell there was a huge buy-in to be a part of that.

“If that camp is where it ends for me then that’s fine because it was a cool experience. NSW is blessed with a lot of good back-rowers, so I’ll just put my hand up with how I play for the Sharks each week. I’m not trying to sound like a suck-up or anything like that, but it was such a good experience and you just want the best guys running around for NSW. That’s the way we’re all looking at it.”

Cameron McInnes, pictured here in action for the Cronulla Sharks.
Cameron McInnes in action for the Cronulla Sharks. (Getty Images)

Wade Graham and Josh Reynolds back Cameron McInnes for Origin

Discussing the possibility of McInnes playing State of Origin this week, former Blues half Josh Reynolds was all for it. “He’s just tough as nails and that’s exactly what Origin is,” Reynolds said on the 'Footy Talk Players Only' podcast.

“It’s not necessarily about these big shifting plays. It’s just about being tough and being there for your mates. He’d relish in a Blues jersey.”

Former Sharks teammate Wade Graham also endorsed McInnes, saying: “The versatility is always a help at that level. Because it’s all hands on deck at times with the injuries and the carnage that happens on that field.”

Whether McInnes is good enough to crack Maguire's 17-man team remains to be seen, but there's no doubts the Sharks forward wouldn't let anyone down. Maguire is seeking to help the Blues win their first Origin series since 2021, with Billy Slater leading the Maroons to back-to-back victories in the last two years.

Many have called for Maguire to swing the axe on the Blues team after two years of Queensland dominance. Captain James Tedesco has come under heavy scrutiny over the last two seasons, but has been in sparkling form to start 2024.