ST GEORGE Illawarra fans may well get a glimpse of the future when livewire Jai Field runs around against the Warriors on Friday night with the club resigned to losing fullback Josh Dugan to a Cronulla Sharks mega-deal.
Dugan’s future has been a major talking point around the Dragons this year and speculation only intensified when the club locked down skipper Gareth Widdop on a rich deal in April.
With Ben Hunt set to arrive on a six-year million-dollar per season deal in 2018, Dragons recruitment chief Ian Millward admitted this week that the club had no wriggle room to match the Sharks offer to Dugan.
What position Dugan would play at the Dragons beyond this season had been a major sticking point in negotiations, with Millward stating earlier this season that Field could be blooded into the NRL full-time at fullback in the Darren Lockyer mould.
Field proved a valuable addition to the Dragons 17 against Cronulla last week with centre Euan Aitken suffering a hamstring injury, handing the 19-year-old a lengthy on-field stint in a back-line reshuffle.
The Shellharbour junior said he will be looking to build on that performance against the Warriors on Friday.
“It was definitely a good experience [against the Sharks],” Field said.
“Being on the bench you’re never sure when you’re going to get on or if someone’s going to go down but Euay [Aitken] went down and I got to play 60-odd minutes. It was really good to get some time under my belt.
“I’m in the 17 again this week so I’m happy to be playing that role. I didn’t have any plan to play NRL this year. I just wanted to come in, put some weight on and get through preseason but things have happened quickly and I’ve played a few games which is exciting.
“I’ve just got to bide my time, I’m still a young fella, so it’s good to get bits and pieces when I can.”
Concerns have been raised over whether his sleight frame is up to the rigours of the NRL but Field is confident a heavy gym regimen has him ready to handle the heavy traffic that will inevitably come his way.
“I started the preseason at 73 kilos but I’m getting up around 80 now, I’m hovering at 78-79 so I’m getting there slowly but surely,” he said.
“I’m not getting knocked around as much and I feel like I can stick in tackles more which is what you’ve got to do when you’re in the NRL. Any half in the NRL is going to get traffic, it’s just part of the gig.
“[McGregor] hasn’t really set me a weight, it’s more my strength. If I’m strong and I’m getting in front of people making my tackles he doesn’t have a problem with what I’m weighing.”