The Sharks have no shortage of potential fullbacks, including Valentine Holmes, Matt Moylan and Dugan himself. Coach Shane Flanagan has plans for Dugan to play in the centres with Holmes at fullback and Moylan at five-eighth.
Even as an accomplished centre, it still must be hard to give for Dugan to give up his preferred position to young Holmes. To do this he must have a lot of faith in Flanagan’s vision and the potential of the Sharks to win the club a second title.
The 2016 NRL Premiers are ramping up for a big year again in 2018. The nucleus of the Sharks maiden Premiership remains. The Sharks have done an outstanding job of recruiting and developing to fill the voids.
In Dugan’s case he is effectively replacing Jack Bird. Looking at the Cronulla squad you have to be very impressed not just by the star factor but the smart retention and acquisitions. It is the usual form for Premiership teams to self-destruct within a few years of winning a Premiership due to the salary cap.
A lot of praise has to go to Shane Flanagan a very unheralded coach. The way he handled the drug scandal, the fallout after and the rise of the Sharks to Premiers and beyond has to be admired. Is that strength and his man management the reason Dugan has bought into his vision and given up his beloved No. 1 jersey?
Dugan is a top talent, there can be no doubting we have been lucky to witness this over the past ten years with the Raiders, Dragons and representative teams. He does, however, polarise fans, coaches and CEO’s alike.
A series of off field indiscretions saw him sacked by the Raiders in 2013. Perhaps he was sacrificed for the sins of Todd Carney at the time as they say, once bitten! However, in saying that there always seems to be an alcohol related story pop up attached to Josh Dugan. We are told they are beat ups that there is nothing in it.
The latest one being last month and involving Dugan and a drunken rant in a pokie den. In last years State of Origin it was stated that he and Blake Ferguson (who has the uncanny ability to attract headlines similar to Dugan) had broken team protocols to use their day off to have a beer and a bet.
To me the story was more rugby league bashing and there was nothing really in it. That was until I heard Laurie Daley retell the story and how the nicest man in rugby league was upset about what they had done. Daley was rather emotional about it. It was the breaking of trust that was at the heart of the matter. A similar story in Dugan’s decade long career.
Fans are also critical of Dugan’s health, with only 150 odd first-grade appearances in his ten-year career. Injuries have cursed him throughout his career some serious and many soft tissue injuries.
When he was in negotiations to extend his career with St George Illawarra last year, many Dragons fans were hoping that he would leave to free up his salary to retain some of the younger boys coming through or to buy another top tier player.
Rumours surfaced his manager argued that the Dragons were offering centre money for a fullback and asked for more money. When that was not forthcoming his manager shopped him around. Ironic then that he has now signed with the Sharks as predominately a centre.
It was said that Paul Gallen had influence in the signing of Dugan that he laid it out what the Sharks were all about and had a no dickhead policy. It must be burning Gallen and others in the Sharks ranks then to see Dugan and serial headline grabber Andrew Fifita being kicked out of the local club for bad behaviour before a ball is even kicked off in the 2018 season.
Dugan is a world class player. He can play in any position across the three quarter line and a ready made replacement at fullback if something should happen to Holmes during the season. He no doubt will add to the Sharks attack and his outside edge defence will be hard to get through.
It remains to be seen though if his off field antics and his want to get more of the ball on field will have a destabilising influence on the club. As I said at that beginning of this article, it was hard to believe Josh Dugan is only 27. He seems to have been around for ever. However, at 27 he should be mature enough to stay away from off field issues that seem to follow him.
He has never won a Premiership in his decade long career and is running short of years to do so. The Sharks give him his best opportunity of his career to achieve adding a Premiership ring. I just worry that by playing in the centres it will not be enough to satisfy him as a player. It might be alright for him in an Origin match to play out of position for the sake of the team but at club level, it may get frustrating doing it week after week.
If coach Flanagan can keep Dugan interested within games, the move to the Sharks will be a success. Management need to lay down strict guidelines now so the off field antics don’t ruin what looks to be a good year for the Sharks. It shouldn’t be left to the likes of Paul Gallen and Wade Graham to tell him and others to pull their heads in.
The Sharks have the team to win the competition in 2018. If they stay reasonably injury free, they have a squad that is equal, if not better than the other main contenders. That will be for nought if egos and off field controversies can’t be contained.
I am a Josh Dugan fan. He is a throwback to the players of yesteryear, tough with some old fashion mongrel sprinkled with silky touch. I want to see him do well, he is a character the game is lacking in the modern era. If he can put his head down and his ego aside, he will be a great asset to the Sharks this year.
See, I even got through the article without mentioning his tattoos!
Josh Dugan in 2018: buy or bust?