Dugan puts faith in McGregor
He put his trust in St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor with a switch from fullback to centre and Josh Dugan wants to be able to continue his development under the caretaker coach in a more permanent fashion in 2015 and beyond.
Fresh off playing his part at right centre in a Series-winning New South Wales Origin team last Wednesday night, Dugan scored the try that levelled things up against the Titans before half-time on Sunday that few players in the NRL could deliver.
Coming back on the angle 10 metres out from the tryline and receiving a pass from Benji Marshall, Dugan beat Matthew White with footwork and then powered through attempted tackles from Greg Bird and William Zillman before slamming the ball down.
Prior to Round 12 against the Rabbitohs Dugan had never played an NRL game at centre in his 86 career games to that point – he played three at five-eighth with Canberra in 2012 – but the move by McGregor is shaping as a masterstroke.
One of the most capped NSW centres in Origin history with 14 appearances, McGregor has worked alongside Matt Cooper in aiding Dugan's adjustment to his new role and the former Raider hopes that his interim coach receives a full-time appointment so they can complete the transformation.
"I think he's definitely the man for the job," Dugan said of the Dragons head coaching position. "All the boys have faith in him and full confidence, everyone's enjoying their footy again and if we can start getting some wins on the board hopefully he can stay on.
"At the moment the boys are really confident, we're improving every week and it's only up from here, we've just got to keep stringing performances together."
The move by McGregor to shift Dugan to the centres not only reduces the number of touches he gets in a game but also more than doubles his defensive workload. And while it was a decision made in the best interests of the team, McGregor believes it could have positive ramifications for his representative career.
"It was the best fit for the team but I thought it possibly could have been a good move for him as well for his future," McGregor said. "[Josh] Morris is the right centre [for NSW] but he's playing left side for Canterbury so there's an opportunity for his future there as well.
"I said to him six weeks ago when I wasn't coach, the way I watch him go about his business that he'd make a real good centre because he's a physical guy, he likes to compete, he's got an offload, he can go against the grain, back through the inside off a double out play, can hold people off so to me that makes a centre. And he's 102 kilos and at times that challenges him through the middle for support.
"He handled Inglis [in Origin II] besides one tackle that he missed on him; I thought he handled him really well. Ran for over 100 metres in his first game [at centre] in Origin, made 25 tackles, missed one or two, and he keeps growing each week.
"He scored three against Cronulla, he scored another tidy one today, so while he's playing that well he's not getting moved."
And for the time being Dugan appears to be happy to stay.
He admits that there has been difficulty in adjusting to some aspects of his new position but that he is relishing the opportunity to develop his game, even tapping into the knowledge of the man he could challenge for state and national honours.
"I think it's definitely shown my versatility and that I can play a few positions and I'm not just a one-trick pony," said the 24-year-old. "In saying that, I'm doing whatever needs to be done for the team and I'd like to think that I'm doing it OK.
"I've had a bit of help from Matt Cooper and 'Mary' (McGregor) over the last few weeks but straight into Origin camp last week and the coaches there and 'J Moz' (Josh Morris) helped me out a bit there.
"It's definitely still a learning curve but I feel pretty confident in the way I've been playing and the way I've been handling it.
"I'm trying to improve every week and I think that's starting to show. As I've said over the last few weeks, I can only get better the more I play there and the more I get to know my role a bit more."