If there was any doubt that Phil Gould is one of the shrewdest operators in the business, the Bulldogs general manager has proven it once again in the past week.
The Cronulla Sharks have officially dumped Josh Dugan over a series of COVID-19 protocol breaches this season.
The Sharks confirmed on Friday that Dugan, 31, will be departing the club effective immediately.
“The decision was made after a review and internal hearing process, with the Club and Josh’s management mutually agreeing to the immediate termination,” the club said in a statement.
“The Sharks will make no further comment on the matter.”
Dugan was already off contract at the end of the season and was not going to be re-signed.
But the decision to cut Dugan loose now means he will not be paid the final two months of his salary, worth $850,000 a season.
The cost of his two NRL breaches will also now be in excess of $200,000 when factoring in NRL and club sanctions along with the lost wages.
Already off-contract and struggling for game time, the latest breach all but sealed the 31-year-old’s fate after 13 seasons and 215 NRL games.
Dugan took to social media 15 minutes later to confirm he had played his last game and would now look to community work and running his own business.
“So by now I’m sure everyone’s seen the news, and for me that ends my time in the NRL,” Dugan said.
“What a journey it’s been from a scrawny little kid at south Tuggeranong to debuting at 18 for the Raiders (and) playing Origin at 21 against some of the best players in the era.
“While (it) has ended the way it has I wouldn’t change a thing, it’s been a rollercoaster throughout my career.
“But due to my support network and my own grit and determination never gave up or took an easy option, in doing that I got to represent my country and state whilst playing over 200 games.”
Meanwhile, Dugan will still face Lithgow Local Court on October 7 after being charged with breaking public health orders for the second of the breaches last month.
Dugan and a friend had been pulled over twice in the state’s central west and ordered to return home.
Police at the time alleged they told them they were moving to the area and were going to feed animals before saying they were visiting a friend.