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Dragons captain Cameron McInnes.

Shifting Cameron McInnes from hooker to lock is providing St George Illawarra forwards with more direction during games, according to Dragons teammates.

McInnes has started at lock in the past two matches against Manly and Canterbury, with halfback Ben Hunt taking on the dummy half duties for the full 80 minutes after playing off the bench in the previous four games.

The Dragons have won both four of their last six games and both matches since McInnes moved to lock on a full-time basis.

"I am liking the forward pack we have got at the moment," Hunt said. "Moving Cam to lock is a massive bonus for us. He is obviously a good ball player and he can help organise the other big boys in the middle so it makes my job a bit easier. I am just enjoying playing with him there."

NSW Origin prop Paul Vaughan has been starting in the front row with Blake Lawrie and the pair then interchange with Trent Merrin and Josh Kerr.

Having Hunt and McInnes in the forward pack ensure St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has cover for an injury in the halves or to fullback Matt Dufty, with five-eighth Corey Norman able to play there if needed.

Dragons utility Ben Hunt.
Dragons utility Ben Hunt. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

As a result, McGregor has been able to carry four forwards on the bench and second-rowers Jacob Host and Jackson Ford will join Merrin and Kerr on the interchange for Saturday's match against Cronulla as Tyrell Faumoano was promoted to the second row in place of the suspended Tariq Sims.

"The inclusion of Hunty into No.9 has been quite different and a lot of things have changed," Kangaroos second-rower Tyson Frizell said. "Cam going to No.13 has been really good so there is a solid core of players who are playing week in and week out."

Vaughan ran 237 metres in the 34-4 defeat of Manly and he again ran further with the ball than any other player in last Saturday's 28-22 win over the Bulldogs, while McInnes has developed into a running back-rower.

He carried the ball 140 metres in 17 runs last week, while still making 44 tackles, and is able to direct teammates around on the field.

"It is just another middle who knows what the hooker wants," Ford said of McInnes. "Cam is very loud, Hunty is very loud too so we have just got those experienced players in the middle, pushing us and telling us where to go.

"Even in defence, they are very experienced so it is good having both of them in the middle.

"Hunty has got good leg speed and he is very unpredictable so you don't know what he is going to do [in attack]. You have just always got to keep pushing up when he goes.

"Cam is the same and it is just good to have Cam in the middle with that ball playing role and creating that second phase."

After coming from 22-10 down to scoring three tries in the last 15 minutes and snatch a dramatic win against the last-placed Bulldogs, St George Illawarra players acknowledged they would need to improve to beat the Sharks for a second time this season.

On the previous occasion, Hunt started on the bench for the first time since joining the Dragons three years ago and made an impact when he came on in the dummy-half role to help the side to their first win since the resumption of the NRL on May 28.

Since then, St George Illawarra have beaten Gold Coast, Manly and Canterbury, while turning in arguably their best performance of the season in a 26-12 loss to Sydney Roosters and suffering a narrow 22-16 defeat against Canberra.

The Sharks have won four of their last five matches against the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Titans and Warriors to sit in ninth place on behind Wests Tigers and South Sydney on for-and-against and equal with 10th placed Manly.

The Dragons are two points behind in 11th position and a win against Cronulla could propel them into the top eight for the first time this season.

"That's where we want to be. We want to be somewhere in the eight," Frizell said. "We are looking to slowly build. We know where we need to be and know where we want to be."

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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