Josh Dugan remains Dragons' centre of attention

Dragons star Josh Dugan has been named at centre for Monday's clash with Manly at WIN Stadium.
Dragons star Josh Dugan has been named at centre for Monday's clash with Manly at WIN Stadium.


Paul McGregor is backing Josh Dugan's hugely successful switch to centre after naming the NSW Origin star in the No 3 for Monday's match with Manly at WIN Stadium.

Dugan scored five tries in three games at centre since he first switched from fullback in the Dragons round-12 loss to South Sydney and was close to NSW's best in the Blues' 32-8 loss in game three last week.

The return of big-name recruit Dylan Farrell from pectoral injury suffered in round six was expected to see Dugan return to the No 1 at the expense of Adam Quinlan.

However, McGregor on Tuesday chose to stick with the formula that's brought the Dragons four wins out of their last five games and revived their finals' hopes.

Farrell will turn out for the Illawarra Cutters alongside Peter Mata'utia who makes way for Dugan as the only change to the line-up that notched a 27-24 win over the Cowboys in round 17.

The Dragons will be without star lock Trent Merrin. The shoulder injury he suffered in Origin III is expected to rule him out until the round-21 clash with the Roosters.

This special "Rise for Alex" round will hold special significance for the Dragons as they look to support one of their junior players, Alex McKinnon, who suffered a serious spinal injury playing for Newcastle in March.

McKinnon made his NRL debut for the Red V in 2011 after a rise through the club's junior ranks as a teenager before he followed Wayne Bennett to be closer to family in Newcastle in 2012.

North Queensland superstar Johnathan Thurston will don the Cowboys No 16 jersey for Friday's clash with Cronulla in a sign of support for McKinnon as he swaps his No 7 jersey for the former Knight's number.

As a mark of respect to McKinnon, the Knights retired their No 16 jersey for the season.

Both the Knights and McKinnon supported Thurston's move. His jumper will be auctioned to raise funds for McKinnon.

Thurston said it was his way of lending his support to the cause.

"There's no doubt that everyone at the Cowboys, and in our game in general, has been touched by Alex's situation and the incredible way he has handled his adversity," Thurston said on Tuesday.


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