THE bye may well have come at the right time for St George Illawarra with Dragons coach Paul McGregor suspecting the club could lose more than just incumbents Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell to State of Origin duty.
Dugan’s decision to depart the Dragons for Cronulla at season’s end is an interesting sub-plot to the unveiling the Blues line-up on Monday where he is expected to retain his right centre spot.
It’s also where Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has indicated he will play Dugan at the Sharks despite a stand-off with recruitment chief Ian Millward over his positional future reportedly playing a large part in his departure from the Dragons.
Dugan has had a plate inserted in the cheekbone he fractured playing for Australia earlier this month but is still expected to be named on Monday while Tyson Frizell is also tipped to keep his jumper despite a wealth of back-row talent on offer to selectors.
They are not the only Dragons in contention with Paul Vaughan, Jack de Belin and Cameron McInnes all pressing their claims over the opening 11 rounds of the season.
Vaughan may have to change plans to fly to Hawaii this week for a mate’s wedding after his performance against the Warriors on Friday.
The 26-year-old, currently sitting second in Dally M voting, ran for 216 metres from 20 carries and made 24 tackles in just 47 minutes on the paddock.
De Belin has also been in career-best form though he and Vaughan would have to leapfrog some Test incumbents to earn a call-up to the Blues side.
McGregor had a frank answer when asked after the Warriors victory if he thought Vaughan had done enough to earn a maiden Blue jumper.
“Yes I do,” he said.
“I hope they’re all in, the players we’re talking about, there’s probably three or four there [in contention].
“I’m a coach that promotes our players playing at the highest level because when they come back they come back more experienced.
“They get to learn off other players and they get to play on the big stage which is only good for our footy team going forward.
“Certainly if Laurie rings me they’re available.”