Cameron McInnes admits he had mixed emotions about leaving his young family to join the NSW camp but he believes he can help them retain the Origin shield even if he doesn’t play in the series.
McInnes, who has a two-and-a-half year old son and a nine-week-old daughter, described being able to take Noah to an indoor play centre in Wollongong after exiting the Dragons bubble as a "highlight of the year".
However, the St George Illawarra captain will now be away from them and partner Rachel until after Origin III at Suncorp Stadium on November 18.
"For me this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I am very excited but that is going to be the hardest part,” McInnes said.
"When I left home, I said ‘bye, daddy is going’ but my son doesn’t really understand that I’m going to be away for five weeks.
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"My partner said this such a good opportunity for me and I am very grateful and as much as I will be missing them I am grateful and looking forward to it."
Players across the NRL have been living under strict biosecurity protocols since early May and for much of that time have been restricted to home or training so McInnes had not been able to take Noah to a playground or anywhere else.
Since the Dragons' season ended on September 27, McInnes only had to abide by NSW Health regulations but he is now in the NSW team bubble for the Origin series and away with the Blues on the Central Coast.
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"Our little girl is nine weeks old now so not a lot changed from being in the bubble to being out of it because we were just at home with the kids but it was nice to be able to take my young man to an indoor play gym.
"I haven’t been able to take him all year and when I took him there, the smile on his face was probably the highlight of the year for me.
"There were big inflatable slides and for a good hour he just went non-stop. He is two-and-a-half so he has just endless energy.
"That was the most challenging thing for me. My partner would be able to take him but she was pregnant and then obviously having the newborn it was very hard for her.
"We are home bodies so the going out aspect of it [not being able to] wasn’t really an issue. It was just more my son not going on playgrounds and things like that because he is too young to understand."
NSW coach Brad Fittler has indicated McInnes would be the back-up hooker for South Sydney’s Damien Cook and could also play in the middle as he did for the Dragons this season.
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However, Penrith’s Api Koroisau could also force his way into the 27-man squad with a starring performance in Sunday night’s NRL grand final against Melbourne.
McInnes played with Cook and Koroisau at the Rabbitohs and is looking forward to working with them again in the Blues camp.
"I don’t come into this with any expectations of what my role will be other than to train hard and be a good squad member," McInnes said.
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"I take that very seriously, and I know at club land the weeks where you have the guys outside the 17 training really well against you it just makes the session so much better and prepares you.
"If that is my role I will do the best I can.
"If I get an opportunity I will put my hand up but in terms of competition, the only competition is making our team as good as it can be and that is how I view my role."