Paul Vaughan has quickly blossomed into one of the game's premier front-rowers, and has been rewarded for a brilliant 2018 season to date with his first Origin call-up.
Vaughan will lead a strong forward pack on Wednesday night in his NSW debut, and has credited his move to the Dragons as a career-defining moment.
The 27-year-old made the switch after he was forced out of the Raiders following 85 first grade games across four seasons, and has since taken his opportunity with both hands at St George Illawarra.
"The best thing I did in my career was to leave Canberra and go to the Saints," Vaughan told smh.com.au.
"I’ve played my best football there and that’s a credit to the coach and the coaching staff they have there. They got the best out of me and obviously I’m reaching new levels in my career which is great.
"I dreamt of this when I was a young fella, coming up and playing State of Origin. I’m pinching myself every day, just the realisation that that is going to come true on Wednesday. It’s the pinnacle of rugby league I think and I’m very honoured and very privileged to be a part of it.
"The only NSW team I made was Residents, that’s reserve grade. That was before a game at Suncorp Stadium. I didn’t make any 16s, 18s or 20s NSW when I was a young fella so it’s pretty cool that I’m making first grade."
Vaughan has played every game for the Dragons this season, and is averaging 26.3 tackles and 130.6 running metres per contest.
The prop is one of four Dragons that will feature on Wednesday night at the MCG, and believes that's just a by-product of how strongly the Red V have performed so far this season.
"Obviously we’ve got a great forward pack at the Dragons and some world class players with James Graham, Frizell, de Belin and Simsy there. It’s a stacked side," Vaughan added.
"It’s just a credit to the Saints, hopefully we can represent the club to the best of our ability and repay the boys that got us there as a team.
"Because we’re going so well, the team collectively, there’s always going to be individuals that get rep honours if the team is going well. It’s a good thing for the club.
"I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, it’s pretty cool. It’s obviously a big arena and I’m just looking forward to getting out there.
"The whole experience, especially at the MCG with the amount of people that are going to be there, I’m just going to take it on board and enjoy the moment.
"Obviously it is my first ever series so I’m very excited and I just want to take it in."