NSW captain Paul Gallen has anointed Josh Dugan as the long-term successor to Jarryd Hayne’s No.1 Blues jersey.
Asked to fill the massive shoes of NFL hopeful Hayne in State of Origin I last month, Dugan was the Blues’ best in their heartbreaking 11-10 loss.
The St George Illawarra star again shapes as key to the Blues’ hopes of forcing this year’s series to a decider, and Gallen believes that will be the case for years to come.
“Duges is the present and the future, it doesn’t surprise me how well he handled it,” Gallen said.
“I can believe how well he played, I never had a doubt he could do it (fill Hayne’s shoes).
“I remember at the start people were asking me who was going to be fullback and I said Josh Dugan, there was never a doubt in my mind he was going to do it.
“He has played before at Origin level, whether it was at fullback or in the centres, he loves this kind of football and it doesn’t surprise me one bit.
“I said before Game I, ‘we don’t want him to be Jarryd Hayne we want him to be Josh Dugan’. You can’t replace Jarryd Hayne, he is a special player, but he is gone now, that is history.”
Dugan enjoyed a stellar performance in game one, in which he helped to set up the Blues’ opening try for Josh Morris and repeatedly carried back the ball with gusto.
His effort was only blighted by a field goal miss late in the piece that would have evened the scores up at 11-all. But it was a kick he was never meant to take.
“For the first few days I was thinking what if … and replaying a few things over, but I’m not one to dwell on things too much. I feel like we put ourselves in a position to win that game and we let it slip,” Dugan said.
“I was happy with the way I played and I felt I did my job for the team, that was the main thing for me. I wasn’t too worried about getting accolades or anything like that, I just wanted to make sure I did my best for the team.
“As a team we have to try not to put ourselves in a position where we have to defend four or five sets in a row.
“A couple of decisions under fatigue let us down last time, and we gave Queensland, who are a great attacking team too much ball in our half.
“For them to only win by a point after having so much extra ball, it was definitely pleasing for us but it still doesn’t change the fact that as a team we were all heartbroken after game one.”
NSW enjoyed their second full contact session at their Coffs Harbour base on Sunday with hooker Robbie Farah taking part in both sessions as he recovers from a shoulder complaint.
The Blues flew to Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.