Josh Dugan has tried to defuse speculation over his future at the Sharks by declaring he intends to serve out the remaining two years of his contract and is doing everything possible to get back on the field.
Dugan’s involvement in pre-season training has been limited by a knee injury that has all but ruled him out of contention for a starting berth in Cronulla’s opening-round clash with South Sydney and it is unclear when he will play again.
With the Sharks telling Dugan he was free to look for another club to help them overcome salary cap issues, the uncertainty over the extent of the former Test star’s injury has raised further doubts about his future.
Dugan said he was determined to continue playing for Cronulla and hoped to get some answers about the injury when he visits a specialist next week after MRI scans indicated he had chronic arthritis and inflammation of the bone and joint.
“My focus is getting a solution and a game plan to get back playing as soon as possible. That is my priority,” Dugan posted on Twitter.
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“I love the playing group and I want nothing more than to pull that jersey on alongside them.
“Everyone is preparing for the trials and round one. I’m training every day and every day trying to get right to get back on the field.”
With Dugan’s contract reportedly worth $900,000 this season and the Sharks having a glut of outside backs, the 29-year-old’s position at the club has come into question.
He played 23 matches for the Sharks last season and was the club’s nomination for the Ken Stephen Medal due to the huge amount of charity and community work he does.
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However, Matt Moylan is the first-choice fullback when fit, while Jesse Ramien, Bronson Xerri and Josh Morris are also vying for centre berths and are considered to be ahead of him at the moment.
The scrutiny over Dugan’s contract and injury has intensified since he rejected an offer last month to join Catalans as a replacement for St George Illawarra recruit Brayden Williame.
After breaking down during a press conference during the 2018 finals series as he discussed the impact of a horror run with injuries, Dugan spent a month in a Thailand rehabilitation clinic.
Dugan said he was now much better prepared for dealing with adversity but described recent criticism in the media as “unwarranted”.
“I’m sick of seeing the crap being written for the most part,” he said.
“People pick and choose when they care about mental health also, imagine if I was not as strong-minded or used to adversity, the shit I’ve copped over the last two weeks, unwarranted.
“I have a contract and I plan on honouring it and working my ass off. I will not be making further comment, time to worry about the boys killing the nines this week.”