St George Illawarra are looming as the most likely Australian NRL club to secure the services of sacked Raiders star Josh Dugan with his father’s strong support for the club believed to be a motivating factor.
The Dragons are reportedly still interested in Dugan after failing to secure his signature in 2012 when he opted to re-sign with Canberra for a contract worth $1.3 million over two years.
It is understood that Dugan’s father is a stout Dragons supporter, which could influence the 22-year-old’s chances of heading to the club.
The Raiders board voted unanimously to terminate Dugan’s contract at a meeting on Thursday citing repeated breaches of the club’s code of conduct, believed to have been sparked by a breakdown in his relationship with coach David Furner.
Dugan was photographed drinking while injured, a breach of club rules, after Canberra’s loss to Penrith on Sunday and in the image he was giving a middle-finger salute.
The image, taken and uploaded to a social networking site by Dugan himself, featured teammate Blake Ferguson, who on Thursday was also hit with a $10,000 fine and ordered to undergo counselling.
Furner said it was out of the club’s hands whether Dugan was allowed to play in different NRL colours in 2013.
“That’s not our decision,” said Furner.
“His contract was terminated so we’ll be setting him loose.”
Onlookers said there was a sense of relief amongst the players at the Raiders training session on Thursday with the club keen to put the saga behind them and start focussing on the season ahead.
Dugan’s sacking has left his immediate future under threat with the livewire fullback no longer registered with the NRL.
At the moment he is in the same position as Todd Carney was in when he had to play a season for the Atherton Roosters in the local Cairns competition in 2009.
While Dugan’s misdemeanours are not as severe as Carney’s offences, an NRL official told AAP that if any club wanted to pick him up for the 2013 season they would first have to apply to the NRL to have him registered.
The NRL would then have to consider all the facts as to why he was sacked by Canberra before deciding whether he could join that club, the official said.
The news only gets worse for Dugan, with the number of potential NRL suitors appearing limited.
Brisbane, Penrith and the Cowboys all showed disinterest in signing Dugan on Thursday despite early reports linking the one-game Origin player to each of the clubs.
“Panthers are not, and never have been, in the market to sign Josh Dugan. Media reports suggesting otherwise are totally incorrect,” Penrith general manager Phil Gould wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Broncos’ operations manager Andrew Gee told AAP they had no comment to make as every player who came onto the market got linked to the Brisbane-based club.
Cowboys manager Peter Parr said they had only just re-signed Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou and had little money left.
He added that the Cowboys were currently focussing their energy on re-signing Matt Bowen, with the live-wire fullback coming off contract at the end of the season.
AAP attempted to contact both Dragons chairman Peter Doust and Dugan’s manager Paul Sutton but both were unavailable for comment.