Dugan: Not Worried About Representative Talk
By Martin Gabor (NRL.com)
Dragons star Josh Dugan has declared he is willing to play anywhere in the NSW backline in this year's State of Origin series, even if that means relinquishing the fullback role.
Dugan has played six of his eight games for the Blues in the No.1 jersey, including all three in 2015 where he was awarded the Brad Fittler Medal as the best player across the series for NSW.
His other two caps were in the centres during the successful 2014 campaign where he scored his maiden try in Origin during the game three defeat, and it's that versatility that could see him shifted to the fringes again in 2016.
The Dragons custodian started 2016 at right centre, making just 128 metres in the first two rounds, before switching to the back, where he has since run for 211, 209, 177 and 312 metres – the latter a career-best effort.
Earlier in the year, Blues coach Laurie Daley emphatically declared on Fox Sports' NRL 360 that Dugan would be in the NSW squad, but couldn't confirm at the time what number he'd have on his back.
"I've had a chat with Loz and I've told him wherever he wants me to play I'll play," Dugan said.
"I feel like I play some of my best footy at fullback, but I've played centre and I felt like I did pretty well there in Origin as well.
"Wherever he picks me, if he picks me - hopefully he does - then I'm ready to go.
"That's the furthest thing from my mind at the moment. I'm just worried about the team here and doing what I can to help us get back on track."
While Dugan is arguably the best ball-running fullback in the game, some have questioned whether he has the playmaking skills required of the modern-day No.1.
The Blues are blessed with incredible depth at the back, with Penrith's Matt Moylan and the Tigers' James Tedesco looming as Dugan's main rivals for the prized No.1 jersey.
While the other two candidates are seen as more creative players – almost second five-eighths – Dugan easily outpoints the pair when it comes to gaining ground, and that will be crucial come Origin time.
And while he currently trails Tedesco 5-0 in the try-assist column, it's an area Dugan feels he can excel at if called upon.
"I know my own ability. I can pass and kick and do all that sort of thing," the incumbent Blues fullback said.
"I'm just a runner. My first instinct is to run and that's how I've gotten as far as I have with that and sometimes Origin is about the nitty gritty stuff.
"It's about taking the hit-ups off your try line and trying to get 10 metres and a quick play the ball and that sort of thing. I think that's why I've done pretty well in that stage. I don't mind doing the hard stuff out of our end and I'll always do that.
"If ball playing opportunities come up then I'm sure I could take them. I do think sometimes I get sold a little bit short, but I'm not too worried about that."
Dugan has his eyes on another representative jumper, and with a flurry of injuries crippling the Australian backline, looks set to retain his spot in the side.
Will Chambers is the biggest casualty from last year's Anzac Test, with the Storm centre set to miss 12-14 weeks with a fractured foot.
His absence, coupled with the return of Darius Boyd, could see Greg Inglis shifted from fullback to centre, with either the Broncos custodian or Dugan getting the nod at the back.
With the May 6 Test fast approaching, Dugan says he'd like to retain his spot in the national side, but admits his fate will come down to new coach Mal Meninga.
"It was always a dream of mine to play for the 'Roos when I was a kid. I'd definitely like to be there again if I get the opportunity. That's up to Mal and what he sees fit."