Shifting St George Illawarra superstar Josh Dugan from fullback might be a high-stakes gamble but the NSW State of Origin No.1 says it could be a cure for the Red V’s point-scoring blues.
Just a month out from round one, Dragons coach Paul McGregor has more questions than answers as he tosses up whether to move Dugan into the centres and hand the No.1 to Kurt Mann, who has earned big raps after moving from Melbourne.
Dugan, who will captain the club for the first time at this weekend’s Auckland Nines, requested the shift into the front line and will play at fullback and right centre during the pre-season including next week’s Charity Shield.
While shifting your star player from the position in which he represented his state last year might seem like madness, that is exactly what McGregor is tinkering with.
Mann, who debuted for the Storm in the centres but played at fullback and five-eighth as a junior, is a viable option to wear the No.1 should McGregor change tack.
While Dugan has proved a potent and powerful ball-runner playing at fullback, he said tapping into Mann’s potential could convert the Dragons’ backline into one of the best in the comp.
The Dragons qualified for last year’s semi-finals but struggled for points throughout the year – finishing with the worst attacking record of any team in the top eight and 17th overall.
But Dugan said with Mann at the back, they shaped as one of the most-formidable attacking teams in the competition.
“During the pre-season, (Mann) has probably been one of our best,” Dugan said.
“He’s fit, he reads the game well, he’s a smart player and he’s got dangerous footwork as well.
“You’ve got that combination of him out the back and, wherever I end up playing, we’ll have one of the best backlines in the comp.”
McGregor said he would be guided by his outside back’s trial form and laid down the challenge to Mann to demand the fullback role.
“We’ll train (Dugan) at fullback and the centres. He’s the No.1 fullback in NSW currently and, to move him out of that position, one of the guys would have to step up in the trials,” McGregor said.
“We’ll give guys a chance to do that but we’re mindful that he played for NSW last year at fullback.
“He will spend time in the trials at fullback and at right centre and we’ll have a look at what’s the best for for the footy team for round one.”