How Dragons sales pitch could have snared Keary
Luke Keary can see Paul McGregor's grand plans for the Dragons well and truly falling into place, two years after almost being swayed by his Red V sales pitch.
The scrum-base showdown between Keary and Cooper Cronk up against Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt looms as a mouth-watering side dish to Wednesday's traditional Anzac Day fare.
In early 2016, McGregor met Keary and Cronk at different stages as the Dragons hunted for a marquee half, 12 months before signing Hunt on a lucrative long-term deal.
While Cronk couldn't then commit to the Sydney sea change, Keary was considered all but over the line by both parties, with the Dragons and his management agreeing to dollars, terms and only the premiership winner's signature needed.
The Roosters famously swooped late with a two-year deal of their own, a coffee with Trent Robinson peaking Keary's interest, and then another with the club's ex-recruitment chief Peter O'Sullivan sealing it just days later.
"I was close to going, I spoke to Mary (McGregor) and a few others at the club," Keary told NRL.com of his talks with the Dragons.
"They were really good with me throughout that process I remember – really up front, really honest.
"They gave me their vision and I can see it playing out now. I liked what Saints were doing and where they were going.
"Last year they got their man for the seven, Benny Hunt, and what they've told me is coming to fruition this year.
"It came down to a decision right at the end between a couple of clubs and obviously I've ended up here at the Roosters.
"But I remember those discussions and I've got a few good mates down there – guys like Cameron McInnes, Tyson Frizell and Jason Nightingale – so I'm really happy for them to be going well."
Keary goes into his second Anzac Day game as one of the leading contenders for a NSW halves berth.
A long-term pectoral injury has ruled incumbent Blues No.7 Mitchell Pearce out of this year's Holden State of Origin series, while a similar layoff for Nathan Cleary (knee) has the young half racing the clock to be fit before game one at the MCG on June 6.
With James Maloney all but pencilled into Brad Fittler's 17, Keary's eight try-assists (second in the NRL behind Widdop) and six line break assists (first) have him well placed.
Having piloted South Sydney to their 2014 title another big game showing on Anzac Day would only enhance Keary's Origin cause.
NSW skipper Boyd Cordner admitted the injury toll on prospective Blues halves was "not ideal", but pointed to the likes of his Roosters teammate Keary, among other contenders including Jack Bird, Adam Reynolds and Matt Moylan, as possible in-form options.
"I think there are a lot of great players that are in contention to wear that Blues jersey that are playing really good football," Cordner said.
"We've got a lot of depth there and if they can keep playing the way they are I'm sure there won't be too much of a headache for Freddy."