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‘This is a great opportunity’: Xerri ban opens door for Josh Dugan

Not only is the 30-year-old tipped to deliver on his hefty price tag for the Shire club, he will relish the chance to play on the same left edge as Chad Townsend and Wade Graham.

Josh Dugan has been backed to make the most of the centre jersey he's won back by default.

Josh Dugan has been backed to make the most of the centre jersey he’s won back by default.Credit:Jon Veage

So says Luke Lewis, the Sharks legend and 2016 Clive Churchill Medallist who told the Herald he could not recall seeing Dugan in a better physical or mental state.

“Over the last few weeks I know ‘Duges’ has got his head back into a really good place and got his body back to the best he can in the time he’s been given,” Lewis said on Tuesday night.

“He really wanted that centre spot and now he’s got it. This is a great opportunity for him. When Duges is playing his best footy, he’s great to have in your side because he runs so hard and can break tackles.

Luke Lewis has backed Josh Dugan to shine.

Luke Lewis has backed Josh Dugan to shine.Credit:John Veage

“He’ll also love playing on the same side as ‘Waydo’ who is that ball-playing back-rower who makes those playing on his outside look really good. Waydo will complement Duges, and with Chad there, those three are the best combination the club can have on the left.”

Lewis spoke with coach John Morris on Tuesday and said the second-year first-grade coach still had enormous belief in his young squad.

While Cronulla try to overcome the Xerri doping scandal, the Tigers have made plenty of their own changes. Harry Grant is set to make his debut as expected in the No. 9 jersey with Josh Reynolds – a one-time Sharks target – left out of the 17.

Latrell Mitchell will retain the No. 1 jersey for South Sydney’s clash against his former club the Sydney Roosters. James Roberts was named on an extended bench after being discharged from a rehabilitation facility last Thursday.

Troy Dargan will replace Cody Walker in the Souths No. 6 jersey.

Troy Dargan will replace Cody Walker in the Souths No. 6 jersey.Credit:NRL Photos

Troy Dargan will debut for the suspended Cody Walker in the halves with Souths skipper Adam Reynolds describing the nuggety No.6 as ”a cool, calm and collected kid” whose left-footed kicking game should complement the halfback.

Roosters stalwart Mitch Aubusson will miss Friday’s derby to attend the funeral of his father Brian on the far NSW north coast.

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Matt Lodge has overcome a partial tear in his ACL to return for Thursday night’s clash for Brisbane against the club that desperately wanted to sign him last year, Parramatta.

Jack Cogger and Lachlan Lewis will be the Canterbury halves with Kieran Foran ruled out for a further week due to his shoulder injury. Brandon Wakeham was named on the extended reserves.

And Issac Luke has been squeezed out for returning St George Illawarra skipper Cameron McInnes in what would have been an emotional return clash against his former club the New Zealand Warriors.

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