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Blues prop Paul Vaughan.

From life support in the ICU, to the Origin debut of a lifetime at the MCG.

Along the way Paul Vaughan has packed on the pounds required for a career in rugby league's most intimidating environment.

But only after brushing off an experience that would scare the proverbial out of any teen and their family.

Coming through the Raiders ranks as an 18-year-old, Vaughan took the ball to the line for his junior club Gungahlin Bulls.

His left leg went one way, his body the other, and Vaughan's tibia and fibula both broke in two, with plenty present in the crowd that day swearing they could hear the snap from the sideline.

Not until Vaughan went under the knife though, with mum Patricia O'Rourke by his side, did things really turn nasty.

"There was a little bit of a complication," Vaughan says.

"I had a fat embolism floating up on my lung and collapsed my lung. I was on life support in the ICU for a couple of days, which was a tough period.

"It's not common but it does happen. It was [dangerous]. It was a long time ago but mum was a bit nervous. But I've come out the other side obviously."

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Mum just happened to be a nurse in the same Canberra hospital, and refused to leave her son's side throughout the ordeal.

From that horrific hospital tale Vaughan finds one hell of a silver lining, starting with the best KFC he reckons he's ever eaten.

"It was pretty brutal, but I got out of there, I lost a lot of weight out of hospital - about 10 kilos," he remembers.

"That was the first time that I've been down around 95 kilos. [Since] putting it on I've been about 110-116 kilos, that's about the best weight for me to be carrying.

"I did heaps of rehab, heaps of weights and that kind of stuff. I was just eating a lot of carbs. That is when I got into the front-row, packed on a little bit of weight."

After nine months in rehab and a good paddock, Vaughan returned to Canberra's under 20s system and the path that leads to next Wednesday's series opener.

Slated for a debut off Brad Fittler's bench in front of 80,000-plus at Australia's most famed sporting colosseum, Vaughan will do so as the 1000th player to pull on the sky blue for NSW.

A 2013 World Cup stint with Italy and three eye-catching seasons with Canberra had Vaughan mentioned in previous Origin conversations.

But when Ricky Stuart's bevvy of big men saw Vaughan surprisingly shuffled to Mounties and eventually off to the Dragons, higher honours were the furthest thing from his mind.

"Down in Canberra playing reserve grade, did I think of playing State of Origin? No, I don't think so," Vaughan laughs.

"The reason I left was because of the salary cap. I thought I was playing good football down in Canberra but that's just what happens.

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"I was getting forced out there and had to play a couple of games through reserve grade, but that happens.

"There's a lot of players that go through their careers that have to play reserve grade at one point. I knew that I was a first-grader.

"I knew I had a lot to prove. I went to Saints, did that, cemented that and it's just gone up from there.

"Moving up to Saints was probably the best thing I've done in my career.

"My football has come on in leaps and bounds and now I'm playing Origin which is the coolest thing that I've been a part of."

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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