The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs are gearing up for a massive play to make NSW Origin fullback Josh Dugan the first big-name recruit of new coach Des Hasler.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt Dugan is cashed-up Canterbury’s top target for 2013, with the St George Illawarra Dragons also set to weigh-in heavily to wrest the star fullback from the Canberra Raiders. As clubs finalise their hit-lists for the coming year, it can also be revealed the South Sydney Rabbitohs will pull out all the stops to poach Melbourne Storm half Cooper Cronk and Dragons enforcer Beau Scott who is in the sights of both the Parramatta Eels and Newcastle Knights.
And premiers Manly face a battle to significantly upgrade and extend the deal of boom No.7 and Test debutant Daly Cherry-Evans, who is tied to an extremely modest contract until the end of 2013.
Dugan, however, is likely to be the first elite player to decide his future this year.
With the NRL’s 2013 salary cap set to be fattened considerably in line with an improved broadcast deal, Dugan could command $700,000-a-season when third-party agreements are accounted for.
“We are aware he’s going to be in big demand,” Furner said. “We’ve had to fight hard to keep him before and we’re going to put together a very attractive package to fight off the invaders.
“He’s a popular kid, a local junior and the other players want him to stay … it’s not something either Josh or the club want to drag on until midway through the year.”