Amanda Palmer and Josh Dugan. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra Raiders fullback Josh Dugan wants his NSW Blues jersey back for Origin redemption in July, but says he'd sacrifice any game to be present for the birth of his first child.
Dugan says he has never been more settled on and off the field, claiming he is better prepared to end his run of frustrating injuries and revealing that he and partner Amanda Palmer are expecting a baby mid-year.
Dugan played his only Origin match in the series opener in 2011, but an ankle injury forced him out for the remainder of the series.
Opening up ... Josh Dugan has revealed he and his girlfriend Amanda Palmer are expecting their first child in July. Photo: Colleen Petch
The 22-year-old desperately wants to reclaim a Blues berth, but says the birth of his child would always be a priority.
''I'm pretty excited about it and I'm looking forward to the change in lifestyle,'' Dugan said.
''Being the first child I don't think I'd ever miss it, even for a game.''
''I think it will be motivation for me this year.
''One of my best mates just had a newborn in December. I've been talking to him a little bit, and had the odd chat with Furnsey [Raiders coach David Furner].
''He just said it's different, and that I'll get used to it and handle it.''
Having cracked first grade as a teenager, Dugan believes his quick transition from child prodigy to the Raiders highest-paid player will help him adjust to the responsibility of fatherhood.
''I think I've had to grow up a bit faster, even without this happening,'' Dugan said.
''I was thrown into the [Under 20s] when I was 17 and into first grade when I was 18.
''It'll be a lot easier for me to make that transition, I think.''
While he has no issues missing games for the birth of his child, injury is a different story.
Dugan has missed 20 games in the past three seasons due injury.
He played the majority of last year with a ruptured AC joint, but said he'd consulted with medical staff and former teammate Alan Tongue before deciding against surgery.
''I figured if it's not bothering me, I'm not going to get it done and run the risk of re-doing it, or my body rejects whatever they put in there,'' Dugan said.
''It was more my choice but I did consult the doctor and our physios, and made sure if I didn't get surgery it wasn't going to hamper me.
''The main thing that turned me off a bit was Tonguey had the same surgery I was supposed to get. The graft they took from his hamstring to use as a [shoulder] ligament snapped inside him, so he had to get it re-done.
''He said it took longer to come back from his hammy than his shoulder.''
Dugan admitted he'd suffered a confidence crisis after damaging his ankle at Townsville in round 16 last year, saying he tried to alter his ''bull-at-a-gate'' approach.
He's vowed to revert to his natural game in 2013, running the ball with brutal intent even if it means walking the injury tightrope.
''I tried to tinker with it a bit last year and it wasn't as effective. I just want to play my natural game and keep being professional off the field and maintaining those injuries,'' he said.
''I was surrendering in tackles and not trying to break the line every time I ran the ball. I didn't feel I was playing my best footy.
''After I did my ankle it broke my confidence, but getting through this pre-season has boosted it back up and I feel like I'm flying.
''I just want to get back to what I do best, and that's bringing the ball back at a hundred miles an hour.''
Dugan said he felt more prepared to start an NRL season than ever before, crediting new Raiders strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones.
''It's been the monitoring of the [training] load we've been doing and avoiding injuries,'' Dugan said.
''We've got full-time physios now which we haven't had in the past. They're always watching training and if we do get a little niggle, they're straight on top of it and take the right precautions.
''A couple of years ago we were getting flogged a fair bit and I was getting stress fractures in my back, that sort of thing.
''If you jump straight on top of it it doesn't take as long to recover.''