As the Dragons face the prospect of missing the finals for the third consecutive year, coach Paul McGregor says he has resisted the temptation to return Josh Dugan to fullback at the NSW Origin star's insistence.
Dugan has established himself as one of the game's premier centres since McGregor orchestrated the switch in May, but the coach's decision to give Adam Quinlan "a spell" for the do-or-die clash with the Raiders on Saturday opened the door for a return to the custodian's role.
McGregor has instead opted to shift left centre Gerard Beale - who came to the club last year with the intention of the making the Dragons No 1 his own - rather than tamper with the positional switch that's emerged as the Dragons' trump card in their late finals run.
Dugan trained exclusively at right centre in the Dragons' captain's run on Friday and McGregor says that is where he will play against his old club on Saturday.
"I didn't move Duges purely on the back of the fact he's really comfortable playing right centre. He preferred to stay beside Benji [Marshall] and build that relationship that they are building together. It's a positional change that didn't need much playing with," McGregor said.
"You don't want to move a player out of position, which we've already done with Josh, back to another position he doesn't want to move to.
"It comes down to a preference for what's right for the football team and what personal opinion the player has at this time of the year because there's only a few weeks left.
"He's enjoying doing what he's doing out there and he's defending at three [in from the sideline] and it's very hard to find another person to defend there.
"At this point in time it really suits what our defensive structures are and our attacking options when we get into good ball."
McGregor said he has no doubt that Dugan will receive a hostile reception from the Raiders faithful but backed his charge to thrive in the confrontational environment.
‘‘He’ll handle it, I’ve got no doubt about that,’’ McGregor said.
‘‘He’s a big game player and he’ll bring out his best on Saturday.
‘‘I’ve seen him play, and been witness to it close, in a lot of pressure games and he’s excelled in them.
‘‘I’ve seen him get man of the match at State of Origin level, I’ve seen him get man of the match at Country level and they’re all pressure situations.
‘‘This will be a pressure situation due to the crowd noise and a few people not enjoying him being back there in a different coloured jumper.
‘‘But he’s one of our leaders in this club for sure in his actions.
‘‘Just the way he trains and in the way he plays.
‘‘He loves a contest, which all good players do.’’