Leading man Josh Dugan prepped

RUGBY LEAGUE

Twelve months after the start to the most turbulent season in his career, a settled Josh Dugan has made the surprising jump from party boy to captaincy candidate at St George Illawarra.

Dugan has joined the likes of Ben Creagh, Dan Hunt, Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale as part of the Dragons' leadership group, a position few would have predicted this time last year.

"I wasn't too sure if I'd be in [the leadership group]," Dugan said.

"I've always seen myself as a leader on the field. I've picked up and have become more mature off it. It's about being a better person on and off the field and leading by example off the field which I wasn't so good at in the last few years.

His rise caps a remarkable turnaround after Dugan was sacked for a range of off-field incidents at Canberra last year before the Broncos withdrew a contract offer because of a social media rant.

The fullback even chuckled to himself when asked if he would have been considered a leadership candidate this time last year.

"Definitely not," Dugan said. "I was still in that young minded stage. It is tough coming through at 18 and having to grow up real quick. It took me longer than it probably should have, but I am there now hopefully. I'm [starting to do] the right things again.

Dugan was sublime in his 10 appearances for the Dragons last year after making a mid-season switch. He was rewarded with two games for NSW before signing a rich four-year contract extension with St George Illawarra.

As the Dragons' attack stalled last year, Dugan became the team's main attacking weapon.

Now with a new halves pairing of Sam Williams and Gareth Widdop, Dugan hopes the duo will spark St George Illawarra's attack, too, as he rekindles his on-field partnership with Williams - a former Canberra teammate.

"It's a different structure and a bit more free running stuff," Dugan said. "Sammy's game is running to the line. He has a good dummy. He'll excel with the structure we've got.

"We've got two international wingers, we are trying to get them the ball a bit more and use them up a bit. The structure has changed a fair bit."

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