The Wade Graham call that lured McInnes to Sharks
Cameron McInnes' future as Dragons captain could be in jeopardy after shocking the NRL by signing with neighbouring rivals Cronulla.
A stealth-like pursuit of the NSW Origin squad member over the past three months has delivered the Sharks a massive coup.
The Sharks' $2.1 million four-year deal has prized McInnes out of Wollongong for the 2022 season and beyond - but it could come at a personal cost in the interim.
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Despite being the Dragons club captain and player of the year for the past two seasons, McInnes' decision has cast an immediate cloud over his captaincy of the Red V for this season. There are senior elements within the club that began raising questions over the 27-year-old's leadership status as soon as the news of McInnes plans broke.
The problem for new Dragons coach Anthony Griffin is his depth of quality leaders within his roster is thin, with Ben Hunt, Tariq Sims and Trent Merrin the only obvious candidates.
Just how the Sharks snuck under the guard of the Dragons and the most interested party, the Wests Tigers, to sign McInnes, is what surprised many within the game.
Given McInnes' qualities as a recognised hooker, most had discarded Cronulla as being an option for the 130-gamer due to the Sharks' investment in promising young dummy-half Blayke Brailey.
But the Sharks weren't interested in signing McInnes as a No.9. They saw him as a major asset both as a lock middle-forward, with his incredibly high workrate and durability suited to the NRL's rapid-fire rule changes, as well as his abundant leadership qualities.
It can be revealed that the Sharks recruitment team led by GM of football Darren Mooney and Sharks coach John Morris met with McInnes and his agent Steve Gillis at a private room at Kareela golf club last December. Follow-up phone calls from Sharks captain Wade Graham and Clive Churchill medallist Luke Lewis were hugely influential in reaffirming the culture of the footy club while also alleviating any obvious concerns that McInnes had over the uncertainty of Morris' future beyond this season.
"Cameron was a member of Brad Fittler's Origin squad last year, he has exceptional competitive instincts, is an outstanding leader and we believe he will be a great acquisition for our club," Mooney said Tuesday.
The Sharks said at "no stage" through their negotiations with the Saints skipper was an immediate move to the Shire discussed.
The Dragons' inability to retain McInnes - in the midst of their anticipated signing of veteran Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough within the next fortnight - has left a sour taste in the mouths of many Red V fans who took to social media to vent their frustration at management.
Dragons GM of football Ben Haran suggested McInnes remained part of the club's plans for 2021 despite him committing his future elsewhere.
"We were well aware throughout our discussions with Cameron and his management that he wanted his future sorted prior to the season commencement," Haran said. "There's always a process to contractual negotiations, but with our club going through a significant transition it's fair to say that Cameron and the club were working on different timeframes.
"We understood why he wanted his future sorted immediately, which has since led to Cameron and his family securing an opportunity elsewhere.
"Cameron is a quality player and person who has brought a lot to St George Illawarra since arriving in 2017, and we're looking forward to him again playing a huge role in his final season at the club."
Originally published as The Wade Graham call that lured McInnes to Sharks