Dragons fullback Dugan's plan to skirt NRL concussion rules

Relax: NSW coach Laurie Daley and NSW centre Josh Dugan. Picture: Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media
Relax: NSW coach Laurie Daley and NSW centre Josh Dugan. Picture: Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media

Josh Dugan has pledged to jump straight back to his feet – rather than take the cautious approach and stay on the ground – should he cop another whack to his mended cheekbone to avoid the NRL's "frustrating" head knock protocols in Origin II.

The bemused NSW centre admitted he would change his approach to on-field medical attention after being hauled off under the NRL's slow-to-stand concussion protocols in the Dragons' loss to the Bulldogs on Monday.

The 27-year-old was seething with the decision – and even let St George Illawarra's trainer know his feelings – after copping a high shot from Josh Morris to the same side of the face where he recently fractured a cheekbone.

Asked whether he would jump straight to his feet in a similar situation next Wednesday night at ANZ Stadium, Dugan said: "Yeah, probably. I'll check my face when I'm standing up and not on the ground.

"I passed all the on-field stuff [on Monday] and, as I said, the way I was hit it was across the ear and the cheekbone I fractured, so I took a couple of extra seconds to make sure everything was OK. I was right. I got up, I rolled over and passed the on-field test and then five minutes later they pulled me off.

"That's the way the NRL works and I guess it is for our safety, but it's definitely frustrating at times."

The NRL has introduced an independent doctor, Daelyn Cullen, to rule on head knocks during the State of Origin series, with former players James McManus and Brett Horsnell this year filing lawsuits against their former clubs alleging concussion treatment negligence.

NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce and Queensland debutant Anthony Milford were ruled out during the first match with concussion after a bizarre chain of events in the second half of NSW's record rout.

If deemed a success, the NRL will investigate the viability of an independent doctor on the sideline at finals matches as early as this season.

Dugan was in the eye of the concussion storm earlier this year after the Dragons were fined $100,000 – half of which was suspended – for not replacing their star fullback following an incident against his future employers, Cronulla.

St George Illawarra argued they followed the NRL's concussion protocols.

Dugan, who had been off the field for a matter of minutes before returning to the fold after Pearce's incident in Origin I, at least took solace from the fact his cheekbone survived a brutal clash against the Bulldogs.

"It gave me a lot of confidence," Dugan said. "I copped one or two [hits] in Origin and it was a little bit tender because it was three weeks after [the initial injury], but I've played three games with it now and it's pulled up sweet after every game. The confidence is back there now and I'm ready to go."

Dugan and right-side colleague Blake Ferguson are likely to face a rejigged Queensland back line with Darius Boyd at centre and Maroons rookie winger Valentine Holmes, who has been preferred to the unlucky Corey Oates.

Dugan, who frequently transitions from the No.1 at club level to centre at representative level, scoffed at suggestions Boyd would be challenged in the front line and heaped praise on his soon-to-be Cronulla teammate Holmes.

'[Darius] is a fullback that defends in the line sometime," Dugan said. "He does make tackles and he makes tackles on big boys. I think he'll handle it pretty well.

"It's just getting up and down off the deck and defending in the front line, that's the biggest thing I got used to the more and more I played it.

"I don't think Corey Oates did too much wrong, to be honest. It's an interesting change. But Val is a brave ball runner and he'll bring the ball back at 100 miles an hour and he does get their sets started pretty well. We'll have to do a job on their back five again."


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