Return of the running 'Mac'
By Martin Gabor, National Correspondent, NRL.com
His defence has been the stuff of legend in 2017, and now Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes wants to take his running game to new heights heading into the business end of the season.
The crafty No.9 leads the league with 1007 tackles – 133 clear of the next best – with his tireless work around the ruck a key reason behind St George Illawarra's stingy defence in 2017.
While he's been happy with his defensive output this season, the 23-year-old wants to increase his workload in attack after he ran for just 50 metres in a five-game stretch that culminated with no running stats in the Round 21 loss to the Knights.
That slump seems to be over after he ran for 74 metres and scored two tries during Saturday's 42-16 win over the Gold Coast Titans, and McInnes told NRL.com that we can expect more of the same in the coming weeks.
"I was running a lot more which is something I need to do a bit more of for the team," he said.
"I always pride myself on my defence and that's been strong all year, but the more of a threat around the ruck that I can be, the further we'll go as a team.
"Mary (Dragons coach Paul McGregor) has given me the freedom to run the ball if I see something around the ruck, and while I'm a good ball runner, I probably haven't done enough of it in the past."
Since coming across from the Rabbitohs in the off-season, the biggest change in McInnes' game has been his minutes, with the workhorse hooker pushing himself more than ever before.
McInnes has missed just seven minutes this season and has played unchanged in 20 of 21 matches; an incredible feat given he only played the full 80 minutes on six occasions during his 38-game career at South Sydney.
"I pride myself on working hard and training hard and I had a big pre-season so I think it's starting to show because I'm feeling really good out there. Touch wood I can keep going and the body holds up, but at the moment I'm feeling great," he said.
"The more footy you play the more comfortable you get. I've always been fit but it's hard to get 'footy fit' and used to playing 80 minutes unless you're playing 80 minutes on a weekly basis. For Mary to have faith in me and let me do that every week, I can't thank him enough for that."
McGregor was quick to praise McInnes in the post-match media conference for his tireless contributions in his first 20+ game season.
"He's been a big part of our year. This is the first time in his career that he's played every game – and 80 minute games – at nine," McGregor said.
"Nothing seems to worry him. He just gets on with it each week, turns up at training and works as hard as anyone else there, he stays behind and does extras all the time and he'll do nothing different this week."
This article first appeared on NRL.com