I haven’t gone back to my wild ways: Josh Dugan

Josh Dugan. Picture: AAP

Josh Dugan. Picture: AAP

Josh Dugan claims he's worked hard to clean up his image since leaving Canberra and is adamant he isn't reverting to his wild-child ways after his latest indiscretion.

Dugan is preparing to join Cronulla in the off-season after a five-year stint with St George Illawarra. His time in the Red V ended controversially after he missed the team bus for the crucial clash with Penrith.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor dropped him over the incident and the side won without him, but his return the following week wasn't enough to earn a win against the Bulldogs that would have clinched a play-off spot.

The Bulldogs buried the Dragons' season with a 26-20 win in their final round clash.

His tardiness followed revelations that he and former Raiders teammate Blake Ferguson had spent a day at the Lennox Point Hotel just days out from the State of Origin decider.

Dugan, who has been named in Mal Meninga's Prime Minister's XIII side, said he has come a long way since being sacked by Canberra for his off-field antics.

"That's not the sort of person I am," Dugan said.

"I've done a lot of hard work off the field to change that perception of me from when I was at Canberra. I've done a lot of off-field stuff in the community and I'm doing the NRL's State of Mind (Dugan is an ambassador for the program raising awareness around mental health), it's a big thing for me to make sure my off-field stuff stays as good as my on-field stuff.

"There will always be people who have the one opinion of me, but if I can change some opinions of me and make sure I'm doing the right things on and off the field, I'm happy.

"The people around me who are close to me and my teammates as well, and the staff members involved with me, they know who I am and what I'm about, and for me that's the main thing.

"But at the same time I also want to be able to walk [down the street] in public or put up a photo on Instagram and not get sprayed by everyone.

"It's a catch-22, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't."

Dugan, who has become a mainstay in the NSW and Australian side in recent seasons, said he has avoided trouble since leaving the nation's capital.

"I haven't stuffed up for four or five years," he said.

"I missed the bus, it's a big thing on game day, a lot of people blew it out of proportion, saying I'm mucking up again and bringing up the Canberra days, when that happened five years ago and was 10 times worse than missing a bus.

"It will follow me around, but for me it's about trying to change that perception."

Dugan said it was "heartbreaking" to be dropped for a crucial game in which the Dragons' season was on the line.

"I was disappointed with myself with the way things panned out, missing the bus to the game.

"I was pretty emotional in the sheds after that happened, I spoke to Mary [McGregor] straight after it, I spoke to the boys as well and apologised.

"Other than that, I don't think I've had a slip-up in the five years I've been there.

"It's not a sign of anything to come or anything I'm doing differently.

"It was a lapse in concentration, I misread the memo and turned up at the time that wasn't right, and I paid the price.

"Moving on from that, it won't be an issue.

"In Aussie camps I've never been in trouble with Mal, I've always put my best foot forward and done everything right for him."

The fullback-centre, who infamously posted photos of himself and Ferguson drinking Bacardi Breezers on a Canberra rooftop, is hopeful he'll get another crack at a Blues jersey.

"I'm hoping the NSW board can see there was really nothing wrong that happened, it was an error in judgment and that's the way it will stay," he said of his day out at Lennox Head.

"As long as I'm playing good footy and putting my best foot forward, I'll leave it up to them."

Asked if he was an easy target, Dugan said: "There's no easy way to say it – if it was anyone but me or Fergo, it wouldn't have made the news."

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