Three years and dozens of games have passed since he was punted, yet Josh Dugan still manages to find an extra gear whenever he plays his former NRL club Canberra.
“Funny that,” smiles former teammate and skipper Jarrod Croker.
Dugan’s sacking in 2013 and move to St George Illawarra has proven a godsend, with the 26-year-old consistently among the Dragons’ best and earning representative honours.
In the time since his infamous drunken rooftop escapade, he has played more than half-a-dozen State of Origin games for NSW and two Tests for Australia – including last week’s win over New Zealand.
“He’s in career-best form,” said Croker ahead of Thursday’s clash at Kogarah Oval.
“He’s an outstanding player and has been for a long time now, so we’re going to have to be at our best against him.
“Hopefully that lifts our boys as well.”
Both sides are coming off disappointing losses two weeks ago, with the Dragons going down to the Warriors and the Raiders losing by one point to Penrith.
“It’s very important that we start clicking some wins together,” said enforcer Josh Papalii.
“We’ve got to do it quick because before we know it, it’ll be finals time.”
The Raiders will have seven players backing up from representative duties – five from Sunday’s City-Country clash and two, including Papalii, from internationals.
Training has been light this week to ensure bodies are kept fresh for the trip to Sydney and next week’s clash with the Warriors in New Zealand.
But the Raiders say they won’t be using the short turnaround as an excuse, having learnt from their 36-6 thrashing by Parramatta five days after their win over Canterbury.
“We got pumped that weekend,” added Papalii
“It was a short turnaround as well, there were a few sore bodies and everyone was a bit down.
“But I definitely know the boys have no excuses and we’ve got to get the win tomorrow.”
Croker is just three points away from surpassing David Furner and becoming the club’s highest-ever pointscorer.
“Hopefully it happens tomorrow because we’re going to need more than three points to win it,” he laughed.