The image of Josh Dugan looking ripped and in full flight on the training paddock is sure to be a welcome sight for NSW coach Ricky Stuart and every Blues fan hoping to finally see an end to the Queensland Origin dynasty.
Dugan on flashed off his chiselled frame – and a few new tattoos – as he trained with his NRL All Stars teammates in sticky conditions at Coogee Oval.
And while Dugan may have broken down with an ankle injury midway through last year, he is ready to hit the ground running and reclaim his Blues No.1 jumper.
“That’s the plan, but you have to remain fit and be playing games to get picked in the rep sides,” Dugan said.
“My parents told me the other day that Ricky said in the paper if I can get back to playing good footy, I’m a very good chance of getting back in the NSW team.
“That’s my goal, to play good footy for Canberra, and use Country as my stepping stone (to the Blues).
“Jarryd Hayne will definitely be a challenge, with him being back at fullback atParramattaand playing off some good halves, including Chris Sandow. And Brett Stewart had a good year last year, he’s injury-free, so if he starts well there will be some good rivalry there.”
Dugan played in Origin I last year, only to break down for the Raiders in the same horror afternoon club favourite Terry Campese also succumbed to serious injury.
The Raiders struggled with their bulging casualty ward, but it was the loss of Dugan that hurt them most.
The 21-year-old underwent ankle surgery, then broke down three weeks into pre-season training with an adductor strain.
“I got caught in the wet, I slid on my knees and tore both sides,” Dugan said.
“I was back running the week before Christmas, but I came back after Christmas because they (Raiders medical staff) wanted to give me an extra week. Since then I’ve been fine and I’ve had no problems with the ankle.”
It was during the corresponding All Stars game last year that Dugan announced himself to the football world.
He earned rave reviews and would love another standout performance against the Indigenous All Stars on Saturday.
Dugan on Monday visited Blacktown Hospital with some of the All Stars, while the bulk of the squad took time out to read to children at Blacktown Library.
As for Dugan’s artwork, he said he had more work done to his wrist during the off-season, while he has also started work on a second sleeve tattoo.
“But it will have to wait a while to get finished now I’ve started training and playing,” said Dugan, who now tips the scales at 96.5kg.
by Buford Balony