St George Illawarra skipper Cameron McInnes has challenged his teammates to perform or expect line-up changes this NRL season.
The 26-year-old will play his first game of the 2020 campaign after battling ankle and knee injuries through the pre-season, settling into his role as an 80-minute hooker for Saturday’s match against the Warriors.
His availability has forced coach Paul McGregor to leave replacement rake Issac Luke out of the team altogether for round three and there has also been a shuffle in the backline.
Rising star Zac Lomax has been shifted from fullback to the centres for Tim Lafai, with Matt Dufty returning in the No.1 jersey.
Inconsistency in the spine was partially blamed for the Dragons’ lack of success last season, and while establishing combinations is important, McInnes says it needs to be earned.
“Combinations are important but so is playing well,” he said on Wednesday.
“We want to have that combination going but we need to all play well to earn that.
“That’s the most important thing.
“Duff’s done a great job training-wise, putting his hand up for that spot, and he knows what he needs to do to keep it, as do Corey (Norman) and (Ben) Hunty and myself.
“Continuity is good but it’s only good when everyone is playing well and that’s our focus.”
The Dragons have been flogged at training with running drills but McInnes said the coronavirus shutdown period was beneficial for him to regain his fitness after injury.
With Luke sidelined, McInnes has no concerns over playing a full game for the first time since round 24 last year.
“I didn’t have any ideas in my head about what the side would be, I hoped I would be in that side,” he said.
“I’ve played three years now 80 minutes of hooker, so it’s not going to be anything new for me to do that this week.”