Sharks sign Dugan after Dragons NRL contract stand-off

Shark attack: Josh Dugan: NRL Imagery

Shark attack: Josh Dugan: NRL Imagery

The debate over whether Josh Dugan is a fullback or a centre will be determined by Cronulla after the representative star signed a four-year, $3 million deal with the premiers from next season.

The Sharks confirmed the signing on Saturday after Dugan fell out with St George Illawarra officials, who appeared to be at odds over his best position and subsequent market worth.

Dugan has been playing fullback for the Dragons, although NSW and Australian selectors have picked him into the centres. Dragons coach Paul McGregor, himself off contract, is of the opinion Dugan is the club's best No.1, while recruitment boss Ian Millward has him pegged - and priced - as a three-quarter.

Dugan is worth more as a fullback and it's understood he was initially seeking up to $1 million per season to remain in the Red V.

While they won't be paying that much, the Sharks have taken advantage of the fallout to sneak under the guard of their traditional rivals.

The Sharks already have a representative fullback in the form of Valentine Holmes, who has seamlessly fitted into the role previously occupied by Ben Barba.

The issue of where he is best suited drove him out of the Dragons, but for Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan it is a welcome headache.

"He is looking forward to being part of the development of players such as Val Holmes and as to where he might play for next year, quite simply he is the current Test right centre and who can also play fullback which is a bonus for our club," Flanagan said.

"Josh will bring quality and experience to our backline next year and to sign the current Origin and Australian Test centre is major coup for the club and for our future.

"We have a number of exciting young backs coming through our grades and Josh's experience will be invaluable in helping with their continued development. Josh has just turned 27 and I am confident his best football is still ahead of him."

The Dragons must now find a long-term fullback to replace Dugan. Youngster Jai Field, the quickest man at the club, has experience in the halves but Millward believes he could best serve the club from the back. The club could look to recruit from outside, although it's likely several potential marquee replacements are about to come off the open market.

Jarryd Hayne has until the end of the month to trigger an option to remain on the Gold Coast for next season worth $1.2 million. The price tag is likely to scare off suitors and Hayne is tipped to officially stay put this week to ensure the issue doesn't overshadow State of Origin preparations for NSW.

Canterbury custodian Will Hopoate is also off contract, although the Bulldogs are keener to extend his stay after he made himself available to play on Sundays.

Dugan suffered a fractured cheekbone during the Anzac Test but is hopeful of recovering in time for Blues selection. It's understood his long-time NSW teammate, Cronulla captain Paul Gallen, played a role in his change of clubs.

"We are rapt to have him," Gallen said.

"I've been lucky enough to play rep footy with Josh over the years and he is a good guy and an outstanding team player.

"He is going to be an enormous boost to our team and Josh will be a great benefit to the club."

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