Dugan confident in cheek but Saturday is D-day
Blues centre Josh Dugan got through a second consecutive full training session unscathed on Thursday and is confident his fractured cheekbone won't impact his Origin I ambitions but says a final call is likely to be made on Saturday.
Dugan was given a likely two to three week post-surgery recovery timeframe after having a plate inserted in his fractured right cheek following an accidental collision with clubmate Russell Packer in the May 5 Anzac Test.
The May 31 Origin series opener will be exactly three weeks post-surgery and Dugan is adamant he is well on track after showing no ill-effects at training for a second straight day.
"I got through training [Wednesday and Thursday] so pretty confident that I'll be able to make the game," Dugan said.
"I did a little bit of left and right [plays including contact] and obviously [we'll] ramp that up a bit [Thursday] and over the weekend so if I get through that I'll be right but I'm pretty confident in it."
Despite suggestions Dugan wouldn't be able to participate in contact drills until late into preparations that hasn't been then case.
In fact the only thing he can't really do already is "basically get hit across the face" – which shouldn't be an issue given the no-head contact edict during training.
Dugan has no doubts he'll be tested once out on the field against Queensland but is ready to face the music.
"I'm sure I'll get tested. I'm confident in it and everyone I've spoken to about it, the physio, the medical staff, all that sort of thing, they've all said it's looking good," Dugan said.
"[The test] will probably be Saturday arvo but I'm confident in it. I'm not holding back on anything. I was doing left and rights pretty much full speed [at training] and we've got the opposed session on Sunday. I'm fully confident in it that I'll be getting through it.
"I'm not holding back, I want to be tested and we'll go from there."
Reflecting back on the unfortunate head clash, Dugan said he was "pretty disappointed and upset" to keep getting injuries following on from a hamstring strain earlier in the season and was starting to feel cursed.
"At the hospital was when I started panicking because they were telling me eight weeks and surgery so that's when I panicked a little bit but I went and saw the specialists the next morning and he said two or three weeks after surgery so that was the greatest outcome I could have got," he said.
"I got a plate in it and that makes it stronger as well and I've been doing everything I can. I was running every day when I was off so I don't think I've lost too much fitness or anything like that.
"It will just be game fitness, up and down, tackling, all that kind of stuff but I'm pretty confident I'll be able to get through it."
Dugan kept in regular contact with NSW coach Laurie Daley during his injury layoff to keep Daley abreast of his progress. Dugan pointed to a similar situation last year – when he withdrew with an elbow injury early in the Origin I camp last year – as proof Daley could again trust him to put the team first if there was any risk.
"He knows by now if I'm not right I'm going to pull myself out and I would have said to him 'I'm no good' as I did last year. I'd rather the team do well than me just being there," Dugan said.
"I'm fully confident I can do my job and 'Loz' has that faith in me as well. I think I've proven I do my job when I'm here and if I'm not right I'm going to tell him and let him know."
The Anzac Test mishap was the second time this year Dugan has been injured by teammate Packer after the big Kiwi accidentally elbowed Dugan as the two attempted to tackle Cronulla's Paul Gallen earlier in the year with the club earning a big fine from the NRL for breaching concussion protocol over the incident.
Dugan could afford a laugh when asked if Dragons coach Paul McGregor should have a word to Packer about easing up on the star fullback.
"I had a chat to [Packer] saying 'do you like me, are we still mates?'" Dugan laughed.
"He texted me straight after the game asking me if I was right. There was definitely no malice in it. I am good mates with Russell back at the club.
"He was actually more disappointed than me in the end because I was out of the game. That's the way things go and when you're playing against your teammates it might happen like that."