Dugan departure angers prickly Stuart

Raider-turned-Dragon Josh Dugan scores a try against his old team on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Raider-turned-Dragon Josh Dugan scores a try against his old team on Saturday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


As the Dragons big guns stood up to banish a 14-year Canberra hoodoo, no-one was lamenting NSW Origin star Josh Dugan's departure from the capital more than Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.

As expected, Dugan received a hostile reception with a chorus of boos greeting his every touch. But he had the last laugh with a crucial try midway through the second half that swung momentum back to the Dragons as they lifted their Canberra curse.

Stuart wasn't at the club for the infamous rooftop binge that ultimately ended Dugan's and fellow Origin representative Blake Ferguson's stints in Canberra. But Stuart didn't hold back after watching the 24-year-old South Tuggeranong junior push his club closer to its first wooden spoon since 1982 on Saturday.

"Losing two Origin players last year [Dugan and Ferguson] put us in disarray. We'd win games this year with those two players in," Stuart said.

"One player beat us last week - a superstar [Jarryd Hayne]. And today international players and Origin players beat us. We haven't got any.

"Until I get Origin or international players here ... and I've got some brilliant young players, it ain't gonna change."

Dugan declined to speak to the media after the game, but stand-in skipper Brett Morris praised his NSW teammate's composure.

"I thought he handled himself well. He was very excited about coming down here and playing, he knew he was going to get a fair reception," Morris said.

"I thought it was one of the better games he's played. He did all the tough stuff. He knew they were going to be out there to try and bash him, but he didn't shy away from it once."

While most of the attention centred on Dugan heading into the match, it was Morris and fellow international Jason Nightingale who really did the damage with gravity-defying tries late in the match to seal the win.

"We should join the circus," Morris joked after the match.

"[Sometimes] you haven't really got anywhere else to go but up, so you've just got to try to get airborne and try and find a spot to put the ball, and I was lucky enough to sneak it in there.

"A couple of years ago we went to the PCYC in Wollongong and they've got springs underneath the mats, so there's all sorts of jumping and forward rolls and somersaults and all sorts of things you can imagine. Everyone was trying to outdo each other and [it was] obviously starting to pay off on the field.

"We do practise, and when they come off they look pretty spectacular."


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