Dragons centre Matt Cooper has extended an olive branch to perennial NRL bad boy Josh Dugan, claiming the Dragons squad would welcome the sacked Raider in Wollongong.
Speaking moments before Canberra officially announced they had torn up the remainder of Dugan’s lucrative two-year contract today, due to expire at the end of 2014, Cooper said rugby league couldn’t afford to lose a player of the 22-year-old’s ability.
St George Illawarra is one of several clubs to have been linked to Dugan, who was shown the door by the Raiders board after his latest misdemeanour.
Dugan and team-mate Blake Ferguson consumed alcohol on the roof of the fullback’s Canberra home while skipping the side’s recovery session on Monday.
Dugan later posted a picture of the pair’s antics on social networking site Instagram.
Ferguson was fined $10,000 for his part in the drama.
Cooper remained coy on the Dragons’ interest in the former State Of Origin star with St George Illawarra having landed Gerard Beale, groomed to be their long-term No 1, during the off-season.
But he admitted the Dragons would welcome Dugan ‘‘for sure’’ if the exiled Raider opted to resurrect his NRL career with St George Illawarra.
‘‘He’s a quality player,’’ Cooper said of Dugan. ‘‘He’s shown in the past how good of a player he is. It’s a shame for him to be out of the game.
‘‘If he ends up coming to the Dragons then so be it. We’d have him, that’s for sure, but I don’t know anything about it [reported interest]
‘‘We’ve got Bealey here playing fullback and I thought he had a great game last week.’’
Dugan could be the latest in a string of former Raiders to have found their way to the Red V, with Bronson Harrison and Daniel Vidot former team-mates of the troubled star.
The recently retired Josh Miller is another who has links to Dugan in his time with Canberra, while representative prop Michael Weyman joined the Dragons after an injury-plagued spell at the Raiders.
The Raiders board unanimously decided to terminate Dugan’s contract after meeting at the club’s Bruce headquarters this morning.
Dugan was invited to address the board via his manager Paul Sutton, but declined believing his fate was already sealed after a string of off-field indiscretions.
‘‘There was no other alternative but to set him loose,’’ Raiders chief executive Don Furner said.
‘‘We’re comfortable with the decision we’ve made, it’s obviously something we haven’t taken lightly ... it’s an unfortunate day.’’
Dugan and Ferguson were both stood down for alcohol-related incidents last season.
Furner said Ferguson would continue to be suspended indefinitely from playing while he tackles his ‘‘issues’’.
‘‘He turned up to training the next day [Tuesday],’’ Furner said. ‘‘He has been undergoing some counselling.’’