Cashed-up Dragons in Dugan play
Sacked Raiders fullback Josh Dugan. Photo: Colleen Petch
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THE St George Illawarra Dragons are ready to launch a strong bid for Josh Dugan, but it's almost impossible the sacked Raiders fullback could line up against Canberra next weekend.
It's understood Dugan's management has advised the troubled star to have a weekend escape as he contemplates his next move.
Interest in Dugan is already mounting, including inquiries from overseas and rugby union.
The Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans have been linked with Dugan, but the Dragons, who are in desperate need of a player to ignite their attack, are shaping as favourites.
The Dragons, Bulldogs and Roosters made a play for Dugan last year when he was coming off contract at the Raiders.
At the time, Raiders officials accused Dragons coach Steve Price of under-handed tactics by ringing Dugan directly and leaving messages on his phone.
Despite being cashed up, the Dragons have not been able to lure any big-name targets since the departure of coach Wayne Bennett and Price is under immense pressure to retain his job.
Their only major recruit this season was fullback Gerard Beale from the Broncos, who would also be capable of playing on the flanks.
The Dragons have a host of players coming off contract at the end of the season, which would enable them to load-up the back end of any deal they made with Dugan.
The NRL has not given any guarantee it would register Dugan to play with another NRL club. Even if Dugan were to sign with the Dragons, it's unlikely the NRL would clear a contract in time for next Sunday's match against the Raiders in Canberra.
The Dragons, which already have former Raiders Michael Weyman, Bronson Harrison, Bronx Goodwin and Daniel Vidot, have a woeful record against Canberra. The Raiders have won 13 of the past 14 matches against the Dragons and the joint-venture outfit hasn't won in Canberra since 2000.
The NRL stepped in to prevent Raiders pivot Todd Carney from playing in 2009 after the Raiders sacked him for ongoing misbehaviour.
The NRL issued a statement yesterday to clarify the issue.
''The NRL has asked for a full report from the Raiders detailing the issues that led to their decision [to sack Dugan],'' the statement read. ''This report will assist in determining the merits of any future application by a club to register the player.
''There have been examples in the past where the NRL has delayed new registration applications on behalf of players terminated from previous clubs on the basis of behaviour. These are decisions, however, that must be taken on a proper assessment of the facts and these will be assessed in due course.''