ST GEORGE Illawarra star Josh Dugan has stated his desire to remain a long-term fullback at club level, putting him at odds with Dragons recruitment chief Ian Millward.
Dugan is off-contract this year with a reported asking price around a million dollars a season for his services beyond 2017. He has courted interest from rival NRL clubs and French rugby while his future remains uncertain.
Millward stated this week that the Dragons were willing to make Dugan one of the highest paid centres in the game with a reported offer worth $2.2 million over three years on the table.
But, with young-guns Matt Dufty and Jai Field waiting in the wings, the club sees Dugan’s future in the three-quarter-line rather than the spine.
Dugan has shifted seamlessly from fullback to centre at representative level for both NSW and Australia but said on Thursday that he feels his best position for the Dragons is in the No.1 jumper.
“I feel like I’m a fullback and I’ve said that all along,” Dugan said.
“The rest of that stuff is up to my management and the club but I feel like my best position is fullback at club level.
“I feel like I can handle both positions no matter what day or game it is. I think I’m a pretty smart footballer and it helps to have that utility value but I like being part of the spine at club level because I see myself as a leader here at the Dragons.
“[Playing] for Australia you’e got guys like Cam Smith and GI and Cooper Cronk who lead the team around and it makes it easier to be out on the edge. At club level it’s a bit different and I’m looking at playing fullback.”
Dugan has been working hard on his ball-playing ability under the tutelage of assistant coach Ben Hornby and refuted Millward’s suggestion that he is too big to play at the back.
“It’s changed a bit. Preston Campbell was too small and now we’ve got too big and they’re going back to the small [fullbacks],’ Dugan said.
“I’m down to 101 kilos, I was 104 last year so I’ve stripped right down and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been.
“I’ve been working all preseason with Benny Hornby about taking the right options and I think it’s shown in the last couple of weeks. I think I’m picking my options better and choosing when to run and when to pass.
“I feel like I’m running around pretty well and I’ve just been working on some little things and training really hard to be the best fullback I can for the club.”
Dugan admitted the standoff was unlikely to be resolved “any time soon” and confirmed he’s fielded interest from cashed up overseas rugby clubs, though remaining with the Dragons is his top priority.
“I won’t rule it out,[Rugby] is obviously an option and I’ve spoken to certain clubs overseas but but my first goal is to stay in the NRL,” Dugan said.
“I grew up playing rugby before I played rugby league. I could have played [junior] Brumbies when I was younger but chose to play Harold Matts with the Raiders.
“I’ve got a little bit of background and it wouldn’t be that hard a switch for me…
“It’s up to my management and the club to sort that stuff out and my focus is on playing good footy. For me it’s about focusing on week-in week-out putting my best foot forward for the club and hopefully everything will fall into place.”