Nine months after being dropped to reserve grade and told by Ricky Stuart he was unwanted at Canberra, Paul Vaughan has rocketed into NSW State of Origin calculations.
The Italian Stallion could prove a Blues bolter after starting his tenure at St George Illawarra as one of the form front rowers of the NRL in 2017.
He was once again devastating in the Red V’s win over the Warriors at Kogarah on Sunday, leading the charge with 165m running metres and making 33 tackles.
The former Italian international’s move to Wollongong has revitalised his career and in his first four appearances this year, only once has he failed to make 150m or 25 tackles.
“He’s played well Vaughany,” Blues coach Laurie Daley said.
“He’s a guy that has played a little bit of rep football over the last couple of years with the Country Origin team.
“It looks as though the change has done him the world of good. He’s a big fella, got good leg speed and seems to be playing really well.”
Importantly, he has out-pointed the likes of Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita and Penrith pair James Tamou and Trent Merrin – considered Blues contenders – in head-to-head battles in the first four weeks.
Vaughan was dropped by Stuart to NSW Cup for three weeks in the back end of last season but has proven himself worthy of a starting berth for Paul McGregor’s Dragons.
Props don’t usually reach the peak of their powers until their mid-20s and Vaughan, 25, said he felt like he was coming into his own.
“I think I am coming into that peak period,” he said.
“This is my fifth year in the NRL and I don’t think I’ve played my best footy yet and I think I’ve got a lot of potential that I haven’t tapped into yet. I told Mary (McGregor) that when we first sat down here to do the deal here.
“I think I can play my best footy here at the Saints and it’s been good start.”