As Cronulla’s Josh Dugan prepares to play his 200th NRL game on Sunday, he reflects on his rollercoaster journey from an unprofessional skinny fullback to a senior player who has used his mistakes to become better.
Dugan says he is “ready to go” after a hamstring injury has delayed his milestone match for the past two weeks.
The ex-Test and Origin star will fittingly come up against former Canberra teammate and close friend, Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson.
The pair have come a long way from their repeated alcohol-fuelled indiscretions, including the infamous rooftop Bacardi Breezers moment in 2013 that led to Dugan’s exit from the Raiders.
Seven years on, the former bad boys have settled to become key players for Cronulla and Parramatta respectively.
For Dugan personally, his evolution as a player and a person has been significant.
Cronulla’s Josh Dugan is itching to play his 200th NRL game. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“It is chalk and cheese – the person I was to who I am now,” Dugan said.
“I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and learning from those things.
“Over the years I think I have proved that I have become a lot more mature, more of a role model and leading by example with things that I’ve done.
“There have been a few hiccups along the way, but from getting that kick up the bum I don’t think I have done anything as close to that since then.
“I haven’t made the same mistake twice. You live and you learn, and you get better from it.
“I think I have done that and then off the field I’ve found that balance outside of footy.
“Since I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve played more consistently, and my performances have proven that as well.”
Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson catch up after a Canberra and St George Illawarra game. On Sunday, Dugan will fittingly play his 200th NRL game against Ferguson’s Parramatta Eels. Picture: News CorpSource:News Limited
Dugan has also battled with his fair share of injuries over the years.
Upon reflection, he concedes a lot of his setbacks were his own doing.
“I was young, and I thought just talent would get me by,” he said.
“I wasn’t as professional as I could have been, and I think that is what hurt me there.
“I was only averaging 13 or 14 games a year. I averaged 18 or 19 games at the Dragons and now I played 23 games last year.
“I’m pretty confident in the way I approach things now that I can get through the rest of the year.”
After reaching 93 per cent of his running speed at training on Tuesday, Dugan is confident of taking on the high-flying Eels.
He can’t wait to play his 200th NRL game – which gives him a chance to reminisce about his rookie year at the Raiders in 2009.
“My first three weeks when I debuted at Canberra, my first game was against Johnathan Thurston, second week was Trent Barrett and my third week was Darren Lockyer, so it was a baptism by fire,” he said.
“I was an 82-kilo ringing wet fullback at the time, but I wouldn’t change it.
“The journey I’ve had has been a rollercoaster, but again it has made me who I am, and I couldn’t be happier.
Dugan back where it all started at the Raiders.Source:News Limited
“Playing for Australia and winning an Origin series are up there as well.
“But there is one feather I’d like to put in my hat is to win a comp, so hopefully we can get there this year.”
As for taking on his old mate Ferguson, who is yet to score a try this season, Dugan is ready for the match-up.
“It is always a good battle with Fergo over the years and it always will be,” he said.
“He always plays as hard as he can, and we are expecting a big game out of him.
“We are going to have to contain him and make sure that he doesn’t score that try this week.”
Originally published asDugan reflects on rollercoaster to 200th NRL game
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