Josh Dugan headling to elite centre class: Laurie Daley

Brett Morris, Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan with the Origin shield after Origin III on Wednesday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Brett Morris, Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan with the Origin shield after Origin III on Wednesday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

After taking a punt on Josh Dugan in the centres in the NSW's State of Origin series victory, Blues coach Laurie Daley is confident the Dragons star is not far away from the same class as superstar fullback-cum-centres Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne.

Inglis is one of the game's best No 1s but switched seamlessly to the centres at rep level to become the most prolific try scorer in Origin history; Hayne also made light work of the switch in Australia's World Cup campaign last year.

Dugan directly opposed Inglis after a game one injury to Josh Morris prompted Daley to gamble on the specialist fullback's ability.

He rewarded the coach with a solid Origin II and an outstanding performance in the Blues's 32-8 loss on Wednesday.

"Duges is a special talent. If he continues on the same path he is at the moment the sky's the limit," Daley said.

"He's a guy who's confident in his own ability and to only have two games of football as a centre, to then come out and play in State of Origin and to do what he's done the last couple of games has been pretty good," Daley said.

After leaving him out of a preseason camp in January for disciplinary reasons Daley said Dugan, led by senior players, embraced the new Blues culture on his return to the Origin arena.

"We're a young team and we've got some really good players coming through but the senior guys are really showing them what it's all about," Daley said.

"The legacy will be there when these guys move on but they're the ones who will start it and they'll create it and people will understand what it means to play for NSW when they come into the system."

While Daley was confident that Dugan was not far away from entering the top echelon of NRL players, Dragons teammate Trent Merrin was adamant he's there.

"One hundred per cent, he's definitely up there," Merrin said.

"Some of the things he does amazes me but I know what sort of player and athlete he is.

"If he has to fill a different role he certainly does it with 100 per cent and he showed the state and the country what he's capable of."

This year's series victory was also a coming of age for Merrin who, after being dropped for Origin III in 2011 and 2012, played the past six games for the Blues.

He said under the guidance of senior players like skipper Paul Gallen and fellow veterans Greg Bird and Luke Lewis, he finally feels at home in the Blues set up.

"When you debut you try and seize the moment but to be able to stay among it and build this culture that we've got going ... it does make you feel at home," Merrin said.


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