St George Illawarra and NSW State of Origin fullback Josh Dugan has undergone surgery for a debilitating neck injury which Dragons’ medical staff had feared would impact on his playing career.
For much of the NRL season, Dugan has been troubled by a bulging disc, often unable to train and losing strength in his left arm.
Without the operation, according to Fairfax Media, it was believed the Blues’ custodian would have battled to get through next season.
The hope is he will be 100 per cent fit by March for the start of the 2016 season.
“Josh has had a bulging disc in his neck that is just hitting on the nerve root and he struggled through it last year so we just thought the best course of action going forward for his career was to get it operated on now,” new St George Illawarra director of performance and medical Tony Ayoub told Fairfax Media.
“He was managed really well by the staff here … but there were periods where he went down a lot during games and then wouldn’t be able to train for a few days afterwards so we decided, in consultation with our doc and the neurosurgeon, that we were going to operate on him and hopefully that will solve the problem.
“It was causing some loss of strength and sensation down his left arm and he was getting weaker through his arm and the shoulder on his left side where the disc was pushing on the nerve so we thought the best course of action was to get it done now.”
Ayoub said Dugan would be able to start restricted training in the new year and might even play a pre-season trial.
In a video on the Dragons’ website, Ayoub said captain Ben Creagh (shoulder), halfback Benji Marshall (ankle) and forwards Will Matthews (shoulder) and Isaac Thompson (shoulder) had also undergone off-season surgery. “Unfortunately, we have had a couple of issues,” Ayoub said.