Scene stealer: Josh Dugan produced two tries on debut. Photo: John VeageDRAGONS recruit Josh Dugan admits the fire still burns to prove himself at State of Origin level.
Had his career panned out differently, Dugan may well have been in camp with the NSW squad today, preparing to wear the sky blue No. 1 jersey for the second time, against Queensland at ANZ Stadium next week.
Dugan’s form in his two appearances for the Dragons suggests the spark is still there for the 23-year-old, who spent two months out of the game after leaving Canberra in controversial circumstances.
In 2011, Dugan made his first – and so far only – Origin appearance. He was hurt playing for the Raiders days after his NSW debut – a 16-12 loss to the dominant Maroons machine – and has not returned.
While Dugan continues his rugby league rehabilitation after the infamous social media outbursts and a rooftop drinking session with Blake Ferguson, his former Raiders teammate’s recent run of remarkable form earned him a place on the NSW wing.
Instead, Dugan will be part of St George Illawarra’s salvage mission on Friday night against the Bulldogs, after a 19-0 loss to Penrith at Kogarah. However, he admits playing for NSW again is a future goal.
“It’s in the back of my mind at the moment,” he said. “It’s always a goal for any player to play for their state, or whatever else. But at the moment, I’ve only been back two weeks, so I’m looking forward to playing good footy for the Dragons and [it] staying that way.”
A scene-stealing two-try debut for the Dragons not only reinforced Dugan’s immense talent but also warranted NSW great and Mercury columnist Steve Roach to say he could even play a part in this year’s Origin series. But NSW coach Laurie Daley last week revealed he only wanted Dugan to focus on his form with the Dragons without being distracted by any greater expectations.
Daley picked Jarryd Hayne at fullback, allowing Ferguson to make his Origin debut with Brett Morris recovering from injury in time for selection.
For his part, Dugan realises the importance of going the “right way” about making the most of an NRL lifeline.
“I’ve settled in pretty well,” he said. “It’s a big vibe around here and it’s good to be part of. I’ve been speaking to a couple of the players and a couple of the coaching staff, I’m looking to improve and go the right way about it. They’ve welcomed me well, I’m just enjoying each week getting back into the routine of things.”
While Dugan’s brilliant introduction was tempered by the 19-0 loss to Penrith, Kiwi international winger Jason Nightingale said the star recruit hadn’t put a foot wrong in the Dragons squad.
“He’s been great with the group,” he said. “Especially on the field he’s been outstanding in his two games so far. He’s a great individual player.
“He’ll spend a bit of time tinkering with the ability that he’s got and making sure we understand when to pop up next to him.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.