Dugan's Rise: now and then

Since he was a teenager, Josh Dugan has been described as a prodigious talent. He’s now 23, with 75 NRL games across five seasons, a NSW Origin jersey and a number of other representative caps, and yet, he is still just a prodigious talent. Off-field indiscretions seem to have taken the shine off the remarkable young footballer in recent times, but on Sunday afternoon that could all change.

He wasn’t named in the inaugural NYC Team of the Year, yet Josh Dugan is arguably the first star to be born out of this competition. He was the inaugural Jack Gibson Medal winner from 2008, scoring a try and kicking four goals in the Canberra Raiders’ thrilling extra time grand final victory, and made his NRL debut in Round 4 the next season. But while the talent for first grade football came so easily to him, it was the physical and social maturity which has taken some time.

In 2008, anybody with rugby league knowledge could see that his wiry kid could play. For his size and shape, he had a remarkable ability to shrug defenders off and bust the line, and as he’s physically grown this has only been exacerbated. Just look at the match winning play last Saturday night against the Knights, where he pushed away and beat three current and former representative forwards to score in the final five minutes.

Plenty of people still believe that social immaturity remains, particularly considering the circumstances surrounding his departure from Canberra and subsequent signing at St George Illawarra, but there is a determination in Dugan’s game at the Dragons that hasn’t been seen for some time, possibly since his outstanding start to 2011. 

As one of the first NYC graduates selected for State of Origin football, his progress through the new structure of the NRL has been almost perfect. He’s had more than his fair share of injury troubles and off-field issues, but it’s often forgotten that he’s only 23.

On Sunday evening NSW State of Origin coach (and coincidentally former Raiders legend) Laurie Daley will name his squad for the second game in Brisbane. With Jarryd Hayne under a massive injury cloud, there is every chance Dugan’s name will be read out by Chairman George Peponis, if not in the number one jersey, then as a shadow player in the group. Should he get his opportunity to shine, it could be the making of a genuine superstar, something that nobody would have predicted a matter of months ago.

Some will view this as a poor example of how footy players aren’t made to pay for their indiscretions, but in reality it is just a show of how far a young NRL player can come in a short space of time.

Smooth Move of the Week
The Tigers have been struck with an unenviable injury crisis this year, but the silver lining is the display of young talent such as Tim Simona. With the game on the line last Sunday and the Tigers trailing by two, Simona got the ball off a 20m restart, brushed away three Panthers defenders and broke downfield. Getting to fullback Wes Naiqama he used his flashy footwork to turn Naiqama around three times before scoring next to the posts and winning the game.