Josh Dugan can begin earning ‘fullback money’ from fullback after being shifted into the key position for his grudge match against St George Illawarra.
Cronulla named Valentine Holmes in the No.1 jersey when the team lists were released on Tuesday, but the plan is for Dugan to spend the majority of the local derby as the custodian. The switch will give Dugan more opportunities with the football against the Dragons, the team he left in the belief he wasn’t offered a contract extension reflecting his market worth.
The Red V felt Dugan was their best option at centre and offered him a deal commensurate with the position. Feeling he was low-balled, the NSW and Australian representative left for a larger offer with the cross-town rivals. Ironically, Dugan’s first game for the Sharks was at centre, but coach Shane Flanagan made a switch after Holmes had a forgettable opening night against North Queensland.
Dugan’s Dragons exit was an acrimonious one, but coach Paul McGregor said there was no ill will from his end.
“As a professional sportsman, you feel you know your worth,” McGregor said.
“It’s what happens in professional sport – players change clubs, coaches change positions. With Josh, he felt he required a certain amount of money that they didn’t come to terms with, so he moved to a club where he got what he needed.
“I wish him all the best, except for tomorrow night.”
Holmes has made no secret of his desire to make a home in the No.1 jersey, although the experiment lasted just one match. He will revert to to the wing, the position where he became the leading tryscorer in the Rugby League World Cup. That form prompted Cronulla great Andrew Ettingshausen to believe he is best suited there, and he has now got his wish.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, addressing the media after news of the positional switch broke, said Dugan and Holmes would both spend time at the back. The Eels employed a similar tactical move with Jarryd Hayne and Bevan French in round one.
“You can’t keep secrets in football, they’ll share the role tomorrow,” Flanagan said.
“I think it will work well; they did it in the trials so it’s nothing new.
“The media has made it more of an issue that Val wants to play fullback.
“It’s something he wanted to try. He’s a quality player and Val will do what’s best for the team. He’s fine with it. It’s let the pressure off him the last couple of days knowing he doesn’t have to do it all on his own.”
McGregor was expecting Dugan to come out with a point to prove against his former club.
“He will be, there’s no doubt about that,” McGregor said.
“He was very good for us for a number of years, so he’s going to enjoy playing against his old teammates and old coach.
“We’ve just got to make sure his night is not a good one.”
Dugan is expected to provide inside knowledge to his new Sharks teammates after spending five seasons at the joint-venture outfit, although both parties will know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“You know his habits, there’s no doubt about that, but you’ve got to stop them, stop what he’s good at,” McGregor said.
“You try to expose what he’s not good at. That’s the same as every other player, but you do have a lot more knowledge about an individual having him for a number of years as a head coach.”