Dugan takes centre stage
Minutes after Dragons coach Paul McGregor watched his three-quarter experiment bag a hat trick in his side's 30-0 romp of Cronulla on Saturday night, we put it to him straight: Can Josh Dugan handle Origin in the centres?
"Yes," he deadpanned.
And what if the NSW coach, the bloke with a nose bigger than Pinocchio, posed the same question to him on Sunday morning?
"I always talk to the truth. So he'll know that, yeah," he said. "... If you look at the right centres in the game that are NSW-born, last week everyone was saying he was miles off.
"Tonight he had a good game and he's close [to Origin]. That's up to Laurie. We're looking now to Penrith on Saturday night. But he didn't do himself any harm, did he?"
And that, good folks, is McGregor's G-rated up-yours to all those who questioned his decision to shift his best fullback – nay, his best attacking weapon – out of position and into the centres.
A position Dugan now believes could become a permanent move.
"At the moment it's in the centres and that's the best thing for the team. Wherever Mary puts me, that's where I'll play. I just gotta keep putting my best foot forward in the team and the rest will fall into place," he said.
McGregor, the caretaking coach, cared less about the truckloads of criticism spitballed his way after the Dragons' uninspiring loss to the Rabbitohs last week, and more about showing patience to a player the club legend described as "one of the best in the game".
"Moving him to centre wasn't a bad decision, was it?" McGregor asked rhetorically. "Look, Duges is a footballer, and they're rare. He just likes challenges and when you put a challenge in front of Dugesy, he wants to compete.
"From making five tackles a game to making 20-plus two weeks in a row, and being effective in it, it's a hard thing to do. As an ex-centre I know how hard it is and I know how much energy it uses.
"He just seems to find something and scored a couple of tries to go with it because his running game is never going to change. He's going to always beat people because that's what he does. Defensively he was very good."
By the end of the night, the ex-Raider scored three tries, broke the line twice, and almost jagged 100 metres in an impressive showing.
"I've said it all along: He wants to play there. And if a person wants to play in a position, he's going to play good because he's a good player," McGregor continued.
"He's actually better than a good player. He's one of the best in the game, and if he wants to do something and play there, he'll play good for you."
Dugan, 24, played the final two games of last year's State of Origin series at fullback after Jarryd Hayne was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
And given Hayne's irresistible performance on the edges in the Kangaroos' World Cup triumph last November, there was a loud case for Daley to select both players in his team for Origin I.
Thanks to Dugan's breakthrough outing in the centres on Saturday night, it could happen – just in the reverse of the roles plenty were originally tipping.
"I'm not going to worry about it too much," Dugan said of a possible call-up. "I'm going to go back, look at the video and look for things to improve on. If that call does come, I'm definitely going to put my best foot forward and do my best for the state.
"It'd mean the world [to get picked]. That's something you strive for as a player, to be the best in the game and get picked in the side because it's the best players in the state and you want to be on that big stage and play that rep game."