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Reagan Campbell-Gillard humbly insists he and fellow NRL star Paul Vaughan did what "anyone else would have done" to help a mother and son struggling in the surf at Shellharbour on Saturday afternoon.

Peter Gavin, a member of the Shellharbour Surf Life Saving Club, thanked the pair in a public Facebook post.

Gavin praised the Eels and Dragons props "for assisting our Patrol to rescue a mother and son who got into trouble in the rip to the north of the flags," saying the 2018 NSW State of Origin teammates were the first to reach the distressed swimmers.

Campbell-Gillard described it as a case of "right place, right time" and the Parramatta enforcer said he was not a hero.

St George Illawarra confirmed Vaughan's involvement but the forward didn't want to comment.

"It's not like we ran into the beach to save them. We didn't do that, we were just [a short distance away in the water]. We just grabbed them," Campbell-Gillard told NRL.com on Monday.

"The lifeguards were still on guard. There's no point in waiting for them to get in there if you're already there to help them.

"We kind of asked [the mother and son] the question; they said they were in a bit of 'barney' [trouble]. It wasn't looking too good, they were in a pretty bad rip. I'm not a hero, I'm not anything."

Eels motivated more by 'outside pressure' to perform

Campbell-Gillard, who participated in squads swimming growing up, said he pushed the boy to propel him to safety.

"You don't second-guess yourself. It's probably a pretty serious situation," the Australian representative said, adding that he didn't speak to the woman and her child after they were rescued.

"[We] just helped them, got out of the surf and that was it. Went home, had a few beers," he said. "You don't do it to get write-ups about it."

Campbell-Gillard considers Vaughan one of his "closest mates" and spent the weekend with him on the South Coast when they decided to go for an "afternoon dip".

The front-rowers often talk football despite being on opposing teams, with Campbell-Gillard saying they "checked in" on one another last year as Vaughan's Dragons endured a tough season.

As for the Eels, Campbell-Gillard is optimistic about their chances in 2021 after bowing out of the finals in straight sets.

"We've got the team to come in that top four again. We've got a nice trial [against Penrith] this week, get that in, build nicely for another two weeks and then we're playing football again," he said.

"We'll pretty much just do what we did last year but a bit better."