Rugby League


Stewart in front of Dugan as No.1 Blue

Canberra Raiders fullback Josh Dugan is resigned to missing out on the NSW Blues fullback position after yesterday's 18-12 loss to the Manly Sea Eagles.

NSW coach Ricky Stuart was at Brookvale Oval yesterday running his eye over both the Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart and Dugan.

Dugan, who was Stuart's first pick fullback last year, warmed into the match but didn't really stake his claim for a second crack at the Maroons.

The Raiders No.1, who showed his strength to roll over the top of the Manly defence to score a try in the second half, is resigned to missing out on selection when the NSW team is named this Sunday afternoon.

He is still not back to 100 per cent fitness after his shoulder injury earlier in the year, and believes there are other candidates in front of him in the pecking order.

''I've only played two games since I've been back,'' Dugan said.


''When you think about it, Jarryd Hayne has been there for the last four or five weeks playing some pretty good footy in a beaten side for Parramatta.

''Brett Stewart has played a few games now and he's been in good form. I'm a little bit behind the eight-ball, but if I have good game next week, and I warrant being picked, I'll grab it with both hands and go.''

Dugan had a good opportunity to press his claims going up against Stewart yesterday, and will get another chance next week against Hayne when the Raiders host the Eels at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

But it's likely to be too late, despite Stuart contacting Dugan a month ago.

''He rang me about two weeks before I was due to be back and just seeing how I was and seeing how [my] recovery was coming along,'' Dugan said. ''That was as far as that went. It gave me a little bit of a boost and it made me want to come back even quicker.''

Meanwhile, Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey allayed the fears of Stuart, declaring Stewart fully fit to take part in all the Blues' training sessions if selected.

It is understood that Stuart has concerns with picking players who would be forced to sit out training sessions.

But Toovey has given the Blues coach an assurance Stewart won't have to sit out any session's because of a chronic knee injury that has plagued the latter stages of his career.

Toovey insisted Stewart would be fit enough to take part in all Blues' sessions.

''I think he's ready,'' Toovey said.

''His injuries are OK at the moment, they're travelling nicely, he just needs to be handled correctly and he'll be fine.''

While Stewart was good in attack, without being exceptional, it was his defence that stood out yesterday.

He made a vital cover defensive tackle on the stroke of half-time to take Blake Ferguson into touch, before stopping Tom Learoyd-Lahrs in his tracks on the try line mid-way through the second half.