By Julian Keith
St George Illawarra Dragons fullback Josh Dugan was on the fast track to NRL superstardom.
At age 21 he was the established starting fullback for the Canberra Raiders, had been selected in a Prime Ministers XIII and represented NSW in State of Origin.
But something was clearly not quite right for the star fullback as it all began to unravel.
Dugans off-field misdemeanours saw him not only off the Raiders team but, after contract negotiations fell through with the Brisbane Broncos in early April, facing the increasing reality he may be out of the NRL entirely.
Enter the Dragons.
With the Red V facing several injury concerns at fullback and Dugan looking for a new place to call home, it seemed like the perfect marriage.
Following weeks of speculation the NRL approved the move and a deal was signed; for Dugan it was an opportunity for a new beginning.
He knew the situation and recognised that changing his ways was the only way forward.
"I'm hoping this is a clean slate for me; Ive been hit with a few injuries over the last few years and obviously a few misdemeanours so I honestly think this is my last chance," said Dugan.
"Really I'm just looking to repay the faith the club has shown in me, I'm very appreciative of the opportunity they have given me and I'll continue to work hard on and off the field.
"I've had a lot of time to sit and think about the way things went down and I probably could have done some things a lot better."
A week of training was all it took for Head Coach Steve Price to realise Dugan was ready to play, despite being out of the game for over two months.
The Dragons attack desperately needed an injection of attacking prowess as it became increasingly clear their trademark defence wasnt enough to secure victories.
So Dugan was named for his first start in the Red V; a perfect 23rd birthday present and with game day approaching he only had one thing to say.
"It cant come fast enough."
It came, and he conquered. A dream debut for the troubled star who sparked a resounding 32-12 defeat of the Parramatta Eels with two tries and an impressive 222 metres.
It was a stark reminder of just how dangerous Dugan can be.
The first try, a superman-like effort where he tore the ball from Luke Kellys arms mid-air, was met with raucous celebration as he was surrounded by his new teammates in a display of welcoming.
The performance was not only a relief for Dugan but his first opportunity to truly thank the club for a second chance.
"It's a big weight off my shoulders and I wouldn't have been able to do it without all the boys and the staff at the club and all the fans as well," said Dugan.
"They really helped me this week, when they announced it last week everyone made me feel right at home and I feel I fit in well here.
"I've only been here for two weeks but the support I've got from everyone already is unreal and it definitely makes me feel at home."
From here, Dugan believes his focus must remain on his football and his new club, because its the only way he can return the faith the Dragons have shown him.
"The whole club has made me feel very welcome and it's definitely worked out well; I'm loving training and loving being in that team environment again," said Dugan.
"I'm very appreciative of the chance that they've given me, and I'll continue to work hard on and off the field."
Changes of scenery have proved effective for troubled athletes in the past, however it does require them to buy into the ideals of their new home.
For the moment it appears that Dugan is on the right track with the Dragons; if he can continue on the way he started, the skys the limit.