St George Illawarra Dragons Australian and Blues representative Josh Dugan has been named captain of the Club’s NRL Auckland Nines squad competing at Eden Park, Auckland on February 6-7.
The first time Captain will lead an 18-man travelling squad named by Head Coach Paul McGregor for the two-day tournament which will see six new signings make their first respective appearances for the Club.
New recruits Tim Lafai, Dunamis Lui, Josh McCrone, Mose Masoe, Kurt Mann and Sebastine Ikahihifo have all been named as has returning former player, Kalifa Faifai Loa.
McGregor has chosen to provide young Dragons Matt Dufty, Jacob Host with the opportunity to play against NRL players as well as NYC Graduate from 2015, Jay Gallagher.
“The Nines is an uncharacteristic style of footy due to the nine minute halves and the overall speed of the game which that everyone enjoys and likes being a part of,” said McGregor.
“We’ve done a lot of game-simulated conditioning this pre-season and it’ll be a good opportunity for the quicker guys and more mobile forwards to present themselves in this environment”.
“It is a great opportunity for these players to show the coaching staff who is ready for the Charity Shield and our upcoming trial against the New Zealand Warriors in Nelson.
“Josh has been named captain for the squad, he is a leader at our Club and I know that this is an environment in which he will thrive,” added McGregor.
Dugan is honoured to have been named captain of the squad and is looking forward to the two-day tournament.
“It is a privilege to be named captain of the Club and I am really looking forward to the opportunity,” said Dugan.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and atmosphere of the Nines last year and I am excited for the event and to lead the boys in the games.
“We have a mixture of youth and experience in our squad and we are all keen to get out and play, it has been a long pre-season”.
NRL Nines Squad:
Euan Aitken, Jack de Belin, Matt Dufty, Josh Dugan (c), Kalifa Faifai Loa, Jay Gallagher, Yaw Kiti Glymin, Jacob Host, Drew Hutchison, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Tim Lafai , Dunamis Lui , Kurt Mann , Jake Marketo , Josh McCrone , Mose Masoe, Peter Mata’utia, Mitch Rein
The Dragons have been included in the Piha Pool alongside the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Gold Coast Titans and Canberra Raiders in the two-day tournament to be staged on Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7.
Players not named in the squad for the Auckland Nines will be playing against Wynnum Manly at the Pinklands Sporting Club, Redlands on Saturday, Feb 6. To view this squad lead by Team Captain Gareth Widdop, please click here.
Noting however, that Dragons halfback Benji Marshall and forward Tyson Frizell have not been named in either squad as they continue their recovery from off-season surgery.
“Benji and Tyson both had surgery in the off-season and their recovery and workloads are still being managed,” said Dragons Head of Medical and Performance, Tony Ayoub. “Both are disappointed to not be participating, but we felt that it was too early to have them competing based on where they are at with their recovery and the start of the season proper”.