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Blues forward Paul Vaughan.

Paul Vaughan wants to add the “missing” green and gold jersey to his Wollongong man cave.

First, though, he must square off with "The Hitman" and redeem a torrid Suncorp Stadium outing, as well as a late-season Dragons drop-off.

Vaughan will wear the sky blue No.10 jumper on Wednesday night and lead NSW from the front-row against his longtime ex-Canberra teammate and fellow prop Josh Papalii.

He did the same in last year’s dead rubber in Brisbane, in what was his first run-on game for the Blues. But he emerged with “only one carry in the first 25 minutes” as Queensland enjoyed a mountain of early possession and eventually an 18-12 win.

With incumbent Test front-rowers Aaron Woods (injured) and Jordan McLean (not selected) watching Origin I from the sidelines, Vaughan could force the Australian selectors’ collective hand with a strong series in the NSW engine room.

But having his 2018 campaign ended by ankle and foot injuries, and St George Illawarra stuck in a four-game losing streak, Vaughan offers a straight bat to start.

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“I just want to get through Origin to be honest, and I need to be playing good club footy for the Dragons too,” Vaughan said.

“That’s the focus. We need to start winning at club level first off.”

One extra prod though and the 28-year-old conceded a Kangaroos jersey would take pride of place in his growing collection.

“I never played Junior Roos or schoolboys, no NSW when I was younger,” he said. 

“It would be a huge, huge honour to play for Australia. It’s the one jersey I don’t have at the moment. I’ve got all my jerseys signed and framed at home, they’re all up in the little man cave I have. 

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“I’ve got Country Origin, the PM's XIII, State of Origin. So there’s one missing. I want to put a little bar in there eventually, that’s the other goal.”

Meantime, a familiar face, which for most is actually frightening, lines up opposite him in game one. 

Vaughan and Papalii came through the Raiders under 18s and 20s sides before playing first grade together until Vaughan moved to the Dragons last year.

Both are enjoying some of the best form of their careers in 2019 and an Australian recall is not out of the question for Papalii either, who played the last of his nine Kangaroos Test in 2016, if he can maintain his power game for Queensland and Canberra.

“I’ve been watching Papa playing for Canberra this year and he’s looking great,” Vaughan said.

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“I’d say it’s the fittest he’s been, the best I’ve seen him look anyway and his football is great off the back of that.

“We played a fair bit together as kids. He’s got that switch when he gets on the field. Off it he’s a great bloke with a beautiful family, get him on the field and he’s an animal.

“All the way through juniors he was known as ‘The Hitman’. 

“Playing with him was pretty good, playing against him, not so good, obviously. You just have to cop the medicine sometimes when you run at Papa, but it’ll be a good exchange up front.”

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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