St George Illawarra have given the strongest indication yet that NSW Origin fullback Josh Dugan will switch to the centres for the 2016 NRL season.
Dugan trained at both positions in the off-season as coaching staff considered the shift, and winger Jason Nightingale has revealed the 25-year-old is set to play centre in Saturday week’s trial against the Warriors in New Zealand.
“At the moment the plan is to play him in the centres. He’ll be playing in the centres next week in Nelson,” Nightingale told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.
Nightingale will captain the Dragons in Saturday evening’s Charity Shield clash with South Sydney, where Melbourne Storm recruit Kurt Mann will make his unofficial debut for the club at fullback.
Nightingale, on the wing, and Canterbury recruit Tim Lafai in the other centre position appear to be the only other players cemented into starting spots in the Dragons backline.
Regular centre Euan Aitken and Mann’s fate hangs on the decision of where coach Paul McGregor decides to play Dugan, while either could potentially be moved to the wing in place of Peter Mata’utia.
Dugan scored nine tries in 12 games while playing centre in 2014, but returned to the No.1 jersey in 2015.
And while the Dragons returned to the finals for the first time since 2011 last year, their attack still yielded an average of only 18 points per match – the second worst in the competition.
Figures that have sparked an attacking shift during the off-season.
“A big part of that change is Duges to the centres,” he said.
“We get a lot of points when he plays in the centres and can finish off plays.
“If I’m outside him I’m sure he will be able to provide a lot of spark and an attacking flair that we’ve been lacking a little bit.”