Cronulla’s $800,000 conundrum as Josh Dugan storms back into form

Being shifted around the back line last season frustrated Dugan, and after playing right centre, wing and fullback in the opening two months of this campaign, Dugan told The Sun-Herald he met with rookie coach John Morris to ensure history didn’t repeat.

Ultimately, Dugan wants to play right centre, the spot 18-year-old rookie Xerri wants to make his own.

Morris will already be mindful  his right edge consists of rookies Kyle Flanagan, Briton Nikora – the Kiwi youngster Dugan believes will be a Test bolter – and Xerri.    Dugan’s experience could be an asset.

“I was a little disappointed about being chopped and changed and this year had shades of last year written all over it,” Dugan said.

“But I had a few in-depth chats with ‘Bomber’. He’s comfortable with where we’re at and I’m comfortable with the relationship we’ve got. It’s about what is best for the team.

“It’s been hard to get some consistency because of that utility role I do. It’s a curse but blessing as well.

“I’d love to go back to the centres, but that’s all dependent on when ‘Moyza’ [Moylan] gets back and what Bomber sees fit. I just want to win games and get to the end of the year.”

Dugan is expected to start at fullback against the Gold Coast Titans on Thursday.

The heavily inked representative powerhouse broke down during Cronulla’s warm-up at Suncorp Stadium just eight nights ago after he felt tightness in his hamstring.

He revealed  that a disc in his back had shifted against Parramatta in round four and required regular pain-killing injections.

Dugan added he had stayed on top of his mental health, too, by continuing his monthly sessions with his psychologist.

“During the warm-up I said to the physios I felt my hammy grab. There had already been tightness there because of the back,” Dugan said.

“I’d been getting two or three painkilling injections to play before last week’s game.

“They pulled me out of that Brisbane game, and looking at how Shaun [Johnson] went down because of his back being out of whack and doing his hammy, it was a blessing for me. I had two extra physio sessions off during the week off my own bat.”

Morris said Moylan was expected to return in a fortnight against Manly, then Johnson against St George Illawarra, then backrower Wade Graham and eventually prop Aaron Woods after the first bye.

He wanted the bigger body at the back against Melbourne, which is why he started Dugan ahead of Will Kennedy, and said: “We don’t win it without Josh Dugan.”

Dugan’s mullet was just as noticeable as his flawless second half. But he will shave the locks on May 24 for children’s hospice Bear Cottage where his late little friend, Gabe, spent his final days last August.

As for Nikora, Dugan said: “He’s killing it. I knew he was something special when I saw him last year when he played for Newtown.

“I think he’ll push for a New Zealand Test spot – he’s one of the best backrowers in the game at moment.”

Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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