Josh Dugan points to the sky after scoring for the Raiders in their trial game against the Storm in February. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
St George Illawarra playmaker Jamie Soward says the Dragons aren’t expecting Josh Dugan to come in and be the team’s messiah against Parramatta at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
The Dragons’ season has gone in threes so far. They lost their first three games, won their next three and have lost their past three.
In the last two rounds, they have gone down by just a converted try to Manly and a field-goal to Gold Coast, but when asked if the introduction of controversial new signing Dugan at fullback against the Eels could make the difference between another loss and a win, Soward was adamant.
“We’re not going to put that pressure on him,” Soward said. “Josh is a fantastic player and it’s good to have him here, but we’re not going to wait for Josh to be the saviour, so he’s just got to come in and fit into the systems that we’ve got in place here and play his normal game.
“I’m sure we’ll get the best out of him that way.”
Dugan is appearing for the first time since Round 1, when he played for Canberra against Penrith. He was sacked by the Raiders in the wake of that game because of yet another act of ill-discipline off the field.
After it looked like Dugan was going to sign with Brisbane, that deal fell apart when Dugan let himself down on social media, but the Dragons, who had been interested in him all along, remained keen and eventually finalised a contract with him.
Soward said that while Dugan naturally needed time to get used to the St George Illawarra way of playing, it shouldn’t be long before he fits into the groove.
“He’s a professional,” Soward said. “He’s coming to training and he’s done everything the club has asked of him to get him right to play.”
Dugan and Soward have played together before, in representative football. Soward played in all three State of Origin games for NSW in 2011, and Dugan played in one of those. They were also both in the Country Origin team that year.
Soward said he was confident that experience would help speed up the process of the pair trying to get used to each other at the Dragons.
“I’d like to think so,” Soward agreed. “It’s going to be important to find out what he wants to do. We’ve played together at rep level, so I’ve worked behind the scenes with him before.
“He’s a lovely kid. He just needs a chance to knuckle down on his footy and I’m sure we’ll see the best of him at some stage during the year.”
After nine rounds the Dragons are in 13th place, on six points. They are only two points outside of the top eight, but are six points outside of the top four and 10 points from the competition lead.
Soward said it was too early to panic and pointed to good signs from their losses to the Titans and Sea Eagles.
“The last couple of weeks have shown that we can get the job done,” he said. “It’s just a matter of fine-tuning a few things and really concentrating on our discipline levels throughout the game – the way we did earlier in the season.
“We’ve been in this position (of losing three games in a row) already this season. It’s a chance for us to really concentrate on ourselves and get back to doing the things we do well and try to get the two points.”
Entering the Harvey Norman Women in League Round, the Dragons have played seven of the current top-eight sides – Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle, Sydney Roosters, Manly and Gold Coast – and lost six of those games.
Their only win over a top-eight side was against Newcastle, and their other two wins came against ninth-placed Cronulla and last-placed Wests Tigers.
Soward said he was delighted to be playing in the Women in League Round, and paid tribute to the women who are most prominent in his life.
“The Joanne Mackay (Breast Cancer) Foundation is something the Dragons have fully supported for a number of years,” he said.
“From my side of things, my mother and my sister, and obviously my fiancée, have been my women in league, and I think it’s great to see the ladies getting involved in the game – not only in things like the canteen, but coaching as well.
“The pink jumper looks good on me, so I’m looking forward to getting out there on Saturday night.”