Dugan set for shock shift to help Blues bid


Josh Dugan could play in the centres for the Dragons against South Sydney on Monday night.

Josh Dugan could play in the centres for the Dragons against South Sydney on Monday night.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor could give Laurie Daley some food for thought, mulling over moving Josh Dugan to right centre for Monday night's clash against South Sydney.

McGregor hasn't wasted any time stamping his authority on the side he inherited last weekend, prepared to make the tough decisions to help lift the stuttering Dragons back into the top eight.

Benji Marshall was also considered as an option of moving to the centres to allow Adam Quinlan, who didn't play NSW Cup on Sunday afternoon, to play in the halves alongside Gareth Widdop.

But it is believed Dugan will slot into the centre position which the Dragons have struggled to fill since Dylan Farrell's injury in round six. That would give Daley a rare opportunity to see how Dugan handles defending in the front line as the Blues prepare for game two without Brett and Josh Morris.

The Dragons won three of their four games this season with Quinlan in the No 1 jersey, scoring 109 points in the first four rounds of the season.

Dugan's success rate at fullback in 2014 is just one win from six appearances since returning from a knee injury suffered in the Charity Shield, with the Dragons running in 70 points in six games when the former Raiders custodian is at the back.

Mike Cooper and Jack de Belin will drop off the interchange bench for the Dragons with back-up hooker Shane Pumipi likely to make his NRL debut off the bench.

The Morris twins are expected to miss the remainder of the Origin series, leaving Daley in search of a new right wing-centre combination for game two at ANZ Stadium on June 18.

Parramatta's Will Hopoate was considered the front runner for the centre position vacated by Josh Morris (knee). However, a less than impressive showing for the Eels in their thumping at the hands of Penrith on Friday night has raised questions over his Origin credentials.

Dugan, Manly's Jorge Taufua, Newcastle's James McManus and Penrith's Josh Mansour are all understood to be in the mix for the wing position made available by Brett Morris's shoulder injury in game one, while Jack Wighton, Joseph Leilua and Dugan could all play at right centre if Hopoate is overlooked or selected on the wing.

Hopoate was called into the Blues camp as 19th man for game one, but given Penrith scored six of their seven tries down his side of the field on Friday night, Daley will no doubt keep a close eye on his performance against Johnathan Thurston and the Cowboys on Friday night.

Blues skipper Paul Gallen threw his support behind the selection of Hopoate at right centre, admitting he would be confident with him in the side for his first Origin game since 2011. "I think Hoppa can do the job," Gallen said. "If young Hoppa was picked, I'd have a lot of confidence in him - I really would. He's been there and done it before.

"The way he finished that City-Country game, he scored the last try and set up the second-last one against Jack Wighton, who is a pretty good defender. I'd be more than confident having Hoppa there. Josh Dugan, you could put him on the wing. Jorge Taufua is going great. McManus has been there before and played pretty well there. I'd be confident in any one of those guys if they got picked."

The problem for Daley is all his winger options will be playing out of position if selected for game two. Taufua, McManus and Mansour are all left wingers, while Dugan is a specialist fullback, whose defence will be put under the spotlight.


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