Dragons fullback Dugan out to prove worth for NSW and on NRL transfer market

Ready: Josh Dugan on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Ready: Josh Dugan on Monday. Picture: Sylvia Liber

JOSH Dugan will use the ANZAC Day stage to try and prove his worth to NSW coach Laurie Daley and on the transfer market.

With the benefit of a 10-day turnaround, Dugan returns from a hamstring injury, named in St George Illawarra's team for the clash with the Roosters at Allianz Stadium. 

But it is his position at right centre for NSW which is coming under siege, with Canberra's Joey Leilua leading the charge for selection. 

Leilua scored a double in the 20-8 victory over the Warriors and now has six for the season, just one behind competition leaders James Roberts (Broncos) and teammate Jordan Rapana. 

Even after some nervous moments in the victory over the Cowboys in Wollongong on Saturday night, the Dragons have barely skipped a beat without Dugan, charging to a 6-1 record to be top of the ladder. 

But Dugan, who ran freely during a recovery session which included playing soccer on Monday, has declared his intention to continue his career at fullback, against the publicly stated strategy of St George Illawarra recruitment manager Ian Millward. 

While coach Paul McGregor is open to keeping Dugan in the No.1 jersey, the Dragons are hoping to sign the 26-year-old on a new deal which would include a permanent move to the centres. 

The Dragons have faith in emerging talent Jai Field, who scored a double for Illawarra last weekend, and Matt Dufty as fullback options. 

As the stand-off continues over contact negotiations, Dugan has tested his value on the open market and club officials attempt to manage the salary cap, after signing Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt on a lucrative six-year deal to move to Wollongong. 

St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop is another off contract, but remains adamant he just wants to do his performances on the field do the talking. 

Widdop is the NRL’s top pointscorer with 83, more than the Dragons scored after seven rounds last season. 

“I say it every single time, I just go out there and do my best for the team,” he said. 

“The contract side of things just happens, that’s reality, it takes care of itself.”

Widdop endorsed the performance of coach Paul McGregor, who is expected to gain a contract extension after the impressive start.

“Mary’s been great this year,” he said. 

“He pushed us really hard throughout the pre-season and keeping us on our toes every week. I’m sure the club will sort that out down the track.”

Future blue? Joey Leilua scores for Canberra in the win over the Warriors. Picture: Getty Images

Future blue? Joey Leilua scores for Canberra in the win over the Warriors. Picture: Getty Images