“That’s his opinion – he’s allowed his, I’m allowed mine, and I think it’s a load of crap,” Dugan told the Herald. “I’ve missed two games al year and feel like I’ve been pretty good on the field and still have a lot to give.
“It’s water off a duck’s back for me. These ex-players need to have a heated opinion. That’s the way it is. I don’t watch the news of read papers or buy into the talk shows. I’m a footy player, I go out and play football and do my job, and I feel l’ve done that on the field.”
Dugan has had his share of injuries but is about to play his 18th game of the year, something he has failed to do the previous three seasons.
“I don’t stay down. I had three subluxed ribs from Darius Boyd’s accidental knee, and when I played against Melbourne the next week I strained my hammy when I slipped on the surface, but I had three painkillers just to play in that game,” Dugan said. “People can judge. Every player goes into games with niggles you don’t know about. It’s about maintenance for me.”
A week after Tallis’ smack-down, Dugan scored a try and put a finger to his mouth in a ‘quiet’ signal when the cameras captured him returning to the line.
When Brad Fittler asked Dugan who he was ”shooshing” after the game, Dugan smiled and said: “Just a bloke who thinks I should retire.”
Dugan backed himself to get the job done at fullback in the absence of Matt Moylan, a position he has more than done justice to over the years and even at different times in recent weeks. He is in a good head space, and was just this week nominated for the NRL’s prestigious Ken Stephens Medal.
“Those first few weeks [at fullback] I was a bit rusty and I was trying to find that continuity and rhythm again,” he said. “I slotted in against the Cowboys well. I’ve been in and out of there the past month.
“In that Cowboys game, that first tackle I don’t know how it wasn’t a penalty when there were five in the tackle and the ball mysteriously drops out.
“But I’ve played enough now and know how to flush errors, and I feel like any time there is an error I’ll go out twice as hard and try to make up for it. I just love competing and working hard.”
Dugan famously missed the bus to the Panthers clash when still at the Dragons in late 2017, and last featured in a game at the foot of the mountains in 2013 when he played for Canberra and ten returned later that year in St George Illawarra colours.
“It’s always a hostile ground to play at, it’s a suburban ground, and somewhere I love playing because of the atmosphere – Friday night out at the ‘Riff’ will be packed,” Dugan said. “I know we’ve got a job to do, and they’ll be hungry for the win after coming off a couple of losses.”
Dugan praised the impact of Wade Graham whose return last weekend against Souths was magnificent, including a short ball to put Dugan over for a first-half try.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.