After being a member of NSW’s triumphant State of Origin team, St George Illawarra prop Paul Vaughan is daring to dream about joining the rare group of Blues who have won a premiership in the same season.
With the Dragons sitting at the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder, Vaughan and fellow Blues forwards Tyson Frizell, Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims are on track to become the first NSW players to win the Origin and NRL grand final double for 14 years.
South Sydney’s Damien Cook and Angus Crichton are also a chance of joining the list of 21 former Blues stars to have done so, along with Roosters trio Boyd Cordner, James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell, Melbourne’s Josh Addo-Carr, Brisbane’s James Roberts and Penrith’s James Maloney, Nathan Cleary, Tyrone Peachey and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Sharks prop Matt Prior, who played in Origin II but has been omitted for next Wednesday's match, is also in the running for the rare honour.
The last players to have achieved the feat were Canterbury forwards Andrew Ryan, Mark O’Meley and Willie Mason in 2004, while Newcastle’s 1997 grand final heroes Andrew Johns, Paul Harragon and Adam Muir also helped NSW to Origin glory that season.
Two years after leaving Canberra to revive his NRL career at the Dragons, Vaughan is now hoping he and his clubmates can join the list of illustrious names, which also includes Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart, Glenn Lazarus, Bradley Clyde, Peter Sterling, Brett Kenny and Steve Mortimer.
"It’s a little surreal at the moment, obviously with the Origin series win that was pretty cool and with the Saints going the way we are … if all the boys can come back healthy after representative duties I think we will give it a fair shake," Vaughan said at Blues training on Tuesday.
"To get the grand final win, it’s a dream. It is what you want to do when you are a young fella. It is why you play the game, it is why you put the hard yards in every day of your professional career so if we get a chance to do that I will be over the moon.
"I am just really lucky and honoured to be a part of this Origin win and to be part of Saints as well, because it is a great team and a great organisation."
After playing from the interchange in NSW’s victories in the first two Holden State of Origin matches, Vaughan has been promoted to start in next Wednesday night’s series finale and he is keen to take the first hit-up at Suncorp Stadium.
Vaughan is also looking forward to being on the field with Frizell and de Belin at the kick-off, while Sims could start as the left-edge forward if Cordner is ruled out with his calf injury from the first half of the June 24 series-clinching 18-14 win at ANZ Stadium.
"It’s good to start next week with Debsy [de Belin] because he ball-plays a lot at club [level] and we sort of run the same sort of shape so it is a little bit easier for me,” he said.
"It is good playing with those boys because you get out there and get a sense of pride that the boys are doing so well being on rep duty so it is not something I am going to take for granted."
With Queensland wanting to farewell captain Billy Slater with a win in his last Origin and also planning to celebrate the career of former skipper Cameron Smith, Vaughan knows the Blues will have to be at their best to complete their first series clean sweep since 2000.
"We have got a good opportunity to go three-zip which hasn’t been done for a long time so we have just got to be a little bit ruthless in what we are doing," he said. "I am sure if the shoe was on the other foot Queensland would want to be ruthless too so that is what we should be working towards.
"It is a young squad and I am 27, so I am one of the older fellows and I have seen it all happen watching the game for a long time so I want to be part of that situation."
Once Origin is finished, Vaughan said the St George Illawarra quartet would turn their attention to the run home to the finals and trying to help the Dragons to their first premiership since 2010.
“It is a pretty cool feeling to go back there, we are sitting on top at the moment and we are winning games so that is nice,” he said. “If you ask any of the boys, they will be humming to get back. We are building a good culture there so it is pretty awesome.”
BLUES PLAYERS WHO WON ORIGIN SERIES AND PREMIERSHIP IN THE SAME YEAR
- 2004 Canterbury: Mark O’Meley, Willie Mason, Andrew Ryan
- 1997 Newcastle: Andrew Johns, Paul Harragon, Adam Muir
- 1996 Manly: Geoff Toovey, Steve Menzies
- 1994 Canberra: Brett Mullins, Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart, Bradley Clyde, Ken Nagas
- 1993 Brisbane: Glenn Lazarus
- 1992 Brisbane: Chris Johns, Glenn Lazarus
- 1990 Canberra: Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Glenn Lazarus, Bradley Clyde
- 1986 Parramatta: Eric Grothe, Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling
- 1985 Canterbury: Chris Mortimer, Steve Mortimer, Peter Tunks