RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
State of Origin centre Josh Dugan is ready to use a hostile reception in Canberra on Saturday as motivation to break the long-standing Raiders' hoodoo.
With the Dragons' finals hopes hanging by a thread, it will be Dugan's first game in the national capital since his sacking last year and it's unlikely the Raiders faithful will roll out the welcome mat.
The fact Dugan resurrected his Origin career in a series-winning NSW team since his move to Wollongong only adds fuel to the Canberra fire.
But Dugan admitted he has been eyeing the match off on the calendar.
"I'm definitely looking forward to getting back down there. It'll be interesting to see what the crowd has to say," Dugan said.
"But I think we've both moved on and I think we're both in better places. I'm just looking forward to playing some good footy."
The man he'll directly oppose on Saturday, Jarrod Croker, added fuel to the fire this week, saying he hoped his former NYC premiership-winning teammate copped it from the Canberra crowd but admitted it could play into Dugan's hands.
Former Raider Bronson Harrison agreed, saying Dugan is a player who excels on the big stage.
"I think he might cop a bit but might be at their own expense. He's certainly a big-game player," Harrison said.
"He can create something from nothing. He's a big boy, he's strong and quick and knows how to bust the line. I'm sure he'll be up for a big game."
Harrison was part of the leadership group during Dugan's tumultuous stint at the Raiders but says the man who returns on Saturday barely resembles the problem child who left.
He said the 24-year-old - now a senior member of the Dragons leadership group - commands the respect of his teammates.
"There's a big difference in him and he's going to grow a lot more because he's still only very young," Harrison said.
"His maturity level has really increased. He's always been a pretty intelligent guy even though he's made a few mistakes, but I think he's learned from them all. With his presence on the field he demands plenty of attention.
"He's a great player and hopefully he can keep producing week in, week out for the Dragons and we'll see the benefits of it."
As his side looks to break the infamous 11-game hoodoo in Canberra, Harrison admitted the Raiders felt they had an edge over the Dragons during his four-year stint at the club
"From the [Canberra] side of things yeah definitely. They do talk about it and they do love this game, so I'm sure this week will be no different," he said.
Dugan may yet return to fullback after coach Paul McGregor named a reshuffled line-up on Tuesday, with Adam Quinlan a casualty of the Dragons' 16-4 loss to Penrith.