The send-off finally made its long-awaited reappearance on Sunday night.
Ex-Canberra bad boy Josh Dugan says he deserved to be booed from the field when sin-binned during St George Illawarra’s 22-20 NRL win over the Raiders at GIO Stadium.
Dugan’s decision to knock the ball out of Jarrod Croker’s hands as the Raiders’ captain was running back from the in-goal area for a quick 20m restart almost killed off his side’s chances on Saturday of pulling off a stellar comeback.
Having already reduced the deficit to eight points after being 18-0 down early, the Dragons were flying home with a wet sail.
But Dugan’s brain explosion in his 100th NRL match gave the Raiders a much-needed reprieve, and most of the 11,774 crowd were all too happy to jeer him off the field.
It showed just how much Raiders fans still feel betrayed by Dugan, who was sacked from the club in 2013 after a string of off-field offences – only to come back to Canberra last year and spearhead the Dragons to break a 14-year hoodoo.
Dugan returned to the paddock with 15 minutes to go to help his side score two tries through Mitch Rein and fellow ex-Raider Joel Thompson – jagging their first win of the season in the process.
But rather than rub it back in the faces of those who used to hold him up as their poster boy, Dugan accepted he deserved to be booed off the field.
“With my actions, it was fully deserved. I’m not going to shy away from what I did to get sacked,” Dugan said post-match.
“I loved playing for Canberra but things didn’t go to plan. A few stuff ups on my behalf and I was shown the door.
“I hold no grudges.
“I think I’ve got a few years left in me to come down here and cop a few boos.
“I’ve just got to take it and move on with it.”
Up 18-0 after 20 minutes through tries to Sia Soliola, Blake Austin and Josh Hodgson, the Raiders were only denied a much-deserved fourth try by the video referee.
In what’s proving to be the NRL’s latest barbecue stopper, Austin was denied a second four-pointer due to a double movement, despite it looking like momentum had taken him over the line.
The Raiders then dropped their bundle and momentum swung to the Dragons, who suddenly looked nothing like a side who had only scored eight points in almost 200 minutes of NRL in 2015.
An overly abrupt Ricky Stuart said he didn’t want to comment on the pivotal video referee decision post-match.
“No, it’s a waste of time,” the Raiders’ coach said.
“What did you make of it?
“It doesn’t matter now, does it? Did you think it was a try? You saw the replay.”