Veteran 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, 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 are among several clubs to have been linked to Dugan, who was shown the door by the Raiders board yesterday after his latest misdemeanour.
Dugan and teammate Blake Ferguson consumed alcohol on the roof of the fullback's Canberra home while skipping the side's recovery session on Monday.
Josh Dugan talks with Raiders coach David Furner at training. Picture: COLLEEN PETCH
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 he 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 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]."
Dugan could be the latest in a string of former Raiders to come to the Red V, with Bronson Harrison and Daniel Vidot former teammates of the troubled star.
The recently retired Josh Miller is another with links to Dugan at 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 yesterday morning.
Dugan was invited to address the board via his manager, Paul Sutton, but declined, believing his fate was already sealed.
‘‘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 tackled his ‘‘issues’’.
‘‘He turned up to training the next day [Tuesday],’’ Furner said. ‘‘He has been undergoing some counselling.’’
The ARLC will await Canberra’s report into the Dugan saga before deciding whether to allow him to join a rival NRL club.
The last player sacked by the Green Machine was Todd Carney, with the club successfully lobbying the NRL to deregister his contract.
The pivot was sidelined for 12 months and forced into purgatory for the Atherton Roosters before joining the Sydney variety, but each case will be judged on its merits, according to the NRL.