He made his top-grade debut way back in 2009 as a teenager weighing “82kgs wringing wet” in using his own words, with Josh Dugan tomorrow set to reach a special career milestone.
A rugby league journey which began in Canberra, continued at the Dragons, before he landed at the Sharks, after a couple of false starts in recent weeks when an injury issue saw him sidelined for a two week period, it appears the third time will be a charm when the day will finally arrives for Dugan and he runs out for his 200th NRL game.
Arriving on the scene in 2009 in Canberra, Dugan would play five seasons and 70 games in the national capital, before heading north for Wollongong and the Dragons midway through 2013.
A total of 84 games over five years in the red and white would come to an end in 2017, with Dugan making the move to the Cronulla club, where 45 matches later he now readies himself to play game 200 in a celebrated career.
He will be first to admit there have been a few speed bumps along the way, with the highs of NSW and Australian representation, coupled with the lows surrounding injury and other issues, but as he explained in a mid-week media call, Dugan wouldn’t change a thing and is in a positive head space as he looks to return from two weeks out due to a hamstring problem.
“There have been a few hiccups along the way, but from getting that kick up the bum I don’t think I have done anything as close to that since then and I haven’t made the same mistake twice. You live and you learn, and you get better from it,” Dugan said
“It is chalk and cheese, the person I was to who I am now. I am a big believer that things happen for a reason and learning from those things. Over the years I think I have proved that I have become a lot more mature, more of a role model and leading by example with things that I’ve done.
“Off the field I’ve found that balance outside of footy. Since I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve played more consistently, and my performances have proven that as well,” Dugan added.
While his ability is there for all to see and rarely doubted by the critics he seems to consistently attract, Dugan is very much appreciated by his coaches and teammates, not just for his on-field exploits but for the things the cameras or fans don’t get to see.
“It wasn’t until I got here, until I saw some of the stuff and the criticism and adversity he has to face as a player or as a person,” Shaun Johnson said. “He’s one of the toughest, strongest players I’ve played with purely because of that.
“For him to be playing 200 games, it’s a testament to him as a person and to his support crew as well. He’s a very inspirational player, a world class player and we’re very lucky to have him.”
As for Andrew Fifita, Dugan and the big front rower have developed a special bond both on and off the field.
“His love for his teammates and his love for people in general, he’s that guy I can go to in a time of need. He’s one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met,” Fifita said.
Sharks coach John Morris and half back Chad Townsend were others to express their admiration for Dugan ahead of this milestone match.
“Duges certainly has been through a lot and that shapes the person he is, that resilience he’s got,” Morris began.
“He’s had some setbacks, but he keeps coming back for more and you know every time he pulls that jumper on, he’s going to give his absolute best.”
While from Townsend; “Most impressive about Duges is his durability. He plays the game at 100 miles an hour, he’s not afraid of contact, he doesn’t take a backward step and that has been super impressive over a long career.
“He’s really taught some of our young kids exactly what’s required in the NRL. That experience is massive for our squad and especially for our young players,” Townsend said.
After the minor hamstring complaint derailed plans for his 200th game two weeks ago in the local derby match against the Dragons, Dugan now gets his chance to celebrate, alongside Wade Graham who chalks up 200 top grade games for the club and Jesse Ramien, the youngster to play NRL game number 50 in tomorrow's clash.