Dugan hopes to convert Halligan help into points
Josh Dugan ... filling in for the injured Jarrod Croker. Photo: Getty Images
JOSH DUGAN has put his hand up to take over Canberra's goal-kicking duties from the injured Jarrod Croker and will work with former sharp-shooter Daryl Halligan tomorrow in a bid to hone his radar.
Croker, the Raiders' regular kicker, was yesterday ruled out for the remainder of the season with a fractured cheekbone suffered in Sunday's resounding victory over the Sharks at Canberra Stadium.
The injury to the competition's leading point-scorer has left Raiders coach David Furner with a huge dilemma ahead of Saturday night's must-win semi-final against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.
Furner, who was Canberra's goalkicker for nine years during his playing days, has to choose between Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Reece Robinson and Sam Williams to replace Croker's left boot.
Dugan missed three attempts at goal while Croker was off the field last Sunday, while Ferguson also had a crack with no success.
But the Raiders fullback, who has a 68.7 per cent strike rate (112/163) at Toyota Cup and NRL level, is confident he can do the job, especially after some words of wisdom from Halligan.
''For the last two years, me, Crokes, Fergo [Ferguson], Reecey [Robinson] - we've had a handful of players kick week, in week, out with him,'' Dugan said. ''With Crokes, because he's been playing every week, he does those extra sessions. While I'm doing kick-offs and kicks for touch, he's doing goal-kicking.''
The Raiders had scheduled a kicking masterclass with Halligan for this week prior to Croker's injury.
The former Bulldogs winger, who has worked regularly with Canberra in the past, has been in contact with Furner since the win against the Sharks and knows the importance of helping the club's second-string kickers.
Dugan may be a goal-kicking novice in the NRL, but he was actually the No.1 choice ahead of Croker when the pair were playing together for the Raiders in the under-20s competition. While Halligan said he was disappointed for Croker, he believes Canberra have the depth to cover for the loss. ''Josh is a good kicker, actually he's better than that,'' Halligan said.
''If he applies himself he can be a first-grade kicker at any club running around, he's that talented. So is Reece Robinson and so is Blake Ferguson. There is no real shortage there. It just happens to be that they haven't had the opportunity because Jarrod has knocked it on the head.
''He's been really good so the others have struggled for an opportunity, but now that opportunity comes. That happens with a lot of young kids, just how no one got the opportunity to kick at the Bulldogs because Hazem [El Masri] was there. Before that, no one got the chance because I was there.''
Raiders winger Sandor Earl took to Twitter to say the injury to Croker would act as inspiration for the team during the finals. ''Feel for crokz massive loss for us irreplaceable … we will be playing for him now get that ring for him hopefully!!'' Earl wrote.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans will take on similar responsibility for the Sea Eagles, with regular kicker and co-captain Jamie Lyon in doubt for Friday night's semi-final against the Cowboys with a calf injury.
Cherry-Evans currently has a 60.8 per cent success rate (28/46) with the boot.