Josh Dugan looked up to NSW fullback forerunner Jarryd Hayne but is thriving on the challenge of making the position his own, according to Trent Merrin.
Merrin said all signs were pointing to Dugan putting in a special performance in Wednesday night’s State of Origin opener in Sydney when he will assume the Blues No.1 jersey.
With Hayne in America chasing his NFL dream, Dugan has been handed the custodian role and Merrin said filling the shoes of the former Parramatta star was the kind of challenge his St George Illawarra teammate relished.
“(Dugan) looked up to Haynesy when he was in that position,” Merrin said.
“He’s taken a lot from Haynesy and he’s got that opportunity now to make that position his own. He loves that sort of stuff.
“From playing with him week in and week out, I know he’s got the talent and drive to make it his own.”
Dugan shifted to the centres last year to earn a NSW team berth because of Hayne’s presence but has been a standout for the Dragons at the back in the first nine rounds of the 2015 NRL season.
Queensland fullback Greg Inglis this week identified Dugan as NSW’s biggest threat.
Merrin said Dugan had been quiet in Blues camp in Coffs Harbour and that boded poorly for Queensland.
He said Dugan had been the model of professionalism throughout the week and was primed for a special performance.
“Duges loves (the responsibility of being the NSW fullback), he thrives off that,” he said.
“He’s got a lot of confidence, especially coming from the way we’re going at the Dragons.
“It’s going to be exciting to see him come out Wednesday night.
“He’s been a little bit quiet, which is good for Duges. He knows he’s got a big job at hand and he’s got that confidence as well, so I think he’s just tapering until Wednesday night.”