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State of Origin: Josh Dugan to centre of attention

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Josh Dugan is under serious consideration to fill the vacant NSW centre spot following his positional switch for St George Illawarra.

Dugan was solid in his first game at centre for the Dragons last Monday, as he steps up his claims for a Blues recall. He was moved away from his regular fullback spot by new St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor in an attempt to spark the Dragons attack. NSW coach Laurie Daley and selection adviser Bob Fulton watched with interest as McGregor – who was until recently a Blues assistant coach – shifted Dugan to centre,  allowing them to give serious consideration to Dugan replacing the injured Josh Morris in game two.

Stepping up his Origin claims: Dragons fullback Josh Dugan is brought under control against South Sydney at the SCG.

Stepping up his Origin claims: Dragons fullback Josh Dugan is brought under control against South Sydney at the SCG. Photo: Getty Images

Former NSW centre Matt Cooper has thrown his support behind Dugan to claim the right centre position. Cooper has joined the Dragons coaching staff on a casual basis, working twice with Dugan last week and again on Wednesday, as he tries to stiffen the Dragons' defensive edges.

''He is the man for the spot,'’ Cooper said. ''He has played on that stage before and he has got great energy about him.

''He is big, strong and fast. They are the attributes he’ll need to defend [against] the likes of Greg Inglis. It would be tough for him but he’ll handle it.''

Injuries to Brett and Josh Morris have thrown open the Blues centre and wing position. With selectors reluctant to switch game one man of the match Jarryd Hayne from fullback, Dugan, Beau Scott, Will Hopoate, Dylan Walker and Joseph Leilua are possible centre inclusions. Dugan and Hopoate will also be considered for a wing spot alongside Jorge Taufua and Josh Mansour. McGregor is set to continue with the Dugan experiment when the Dragons play Cronulla on Saturday night.

Dugan showed glimpses of his potent best against South Sydney last Monday, maintaining his high involvement, running for 112 metres and making 25 tackles while missing one.

''He had Sam Burgess and Inglis coming at him,'' Cooper said. ''He missed one tackle on Burgess. I’ve missed a few tackles on Burgess. He should get a lot of confidence out of his game.

''I was really impressed by him, especially by his energy and the way he defended. It’s a big ask for a fullback to play centre.

''It probably didn’t look pretty to a lot of people because he didn’t score tries or make breaks, but he did all the hard work, [which] a coach would pick up on.''

Cooper is keen to extend his time on the Dragons coaching staff and will meet with McGregor later this week to work out a formal arrangement. McGregor  wants to increase the involvement of former premiership winners in Cooper, Ben Hornby and Dean Young in a bid to lift the vibe of the struggling Dragons.

Cooper has worked exclusively with the Dragons halves and outside back on edge defence.

''Josh likes the centre position and has been really happy at training,'' Cooper said. ''By his body language, I think he really likes playing there. I can see a spot for him there long-term.

''I’m keen to help him out and I think I can help him. He has got all the attacking ability, I don’t need to tell him what to do there. If he has a few questions he’ll ask, but my main role is how he should be as a defender.'' 

7 comments so far

  • Laurie - whatever you do, don't pick Hopoate or Walker. Put Mansour or Tafua on the wing and Dugan at centre. If it doesn't work out, simply switch Hayne to centre and Dugan to fullback.

    Commenter
    Whale Oil Beef Hooked
    Date and time
    June 05, 2014, 6:40AM
    • But unfortunately for St George, Quinlan is not a fullback and Dugan is. Daley's calling the shots on this crazy move and it's not in our interests. Put Dugan back and Runciman in the centres. Quinlan should be a dummy half player to give Rein a rest and has good speed.

      Commenter
      daffy
      Date and time
      June 05, 2014, 7:28AM
      • The Blues should go nowhere near Dugan, The harmony in the NSW team and the discipline both on and off the field does not need to be tested by a proven lose cannon.

        Commenter
        RTP
        Location
        Sawtell
        Date and time
        June 05, 2014, 8:53AM
        • So you you saying they won't pick Fafita regarding his rare curricular activities in the past but Dugan is ok. If nsw rest of their laurels after winning game 1 and don't pick Fafita it would be a big mistake imo.

          Commenter
          Gj
          Date and time
          June 05, 2014, 9:16AM
          • No no no no no no no no no we do not want Dugan in any position in an Origin team.

            Commenter
            TuffGuy
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            June 05, 2014, 10:26AM
            • Hahaha this is hilarious, switched to centre to spark the dragons attack. From centre? Well if it was attack that they wanted to spark he did a very poor job.

              There was no doubt that his move to centre was purely an origin based decision, the coach just wants to hold his dignity in tact by not having to admit the Dragons season is well and truly over, that he may as well chuck Duges in the centres so he can get origin representation.

              The fact that his performance was poor doesn't look like it is going to dissuade writers from heralding back Josh "12 cruisers" Dugan. At least wait until his form is good before trying to champion him back into the side. Dylan Walker has proved to be a fine centre for Souths and I don't believe you could make a bad decision by picking Mansour or Tafua.

              Commenter
              El Seano
              Date and time
              June 05, 2014, 10:42AM
              • In such a big game, play them in the proper positions. Dugan won't spark anything from the midfield.If only Jamie Lyon was available. Tafua has the muscle to make it.

                Commenter
                Manfred
                Date and time
                June 05, 2014, 7:41PM

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