Cronulla appear to be in the box seat to land Australia and NSW representative Josh Dugan from their fierce rivals St George Illawarra after the Dragons indicated they would not meet the Sharks’ valuation of the player.
It was reported last week that the Sharks were prepared to offer Dugan similar money to what Jack Bird rejected to join Brisbane last month – believed to be close to $1 million a season.
But Dragons’ director of rugby league pathways Ian Millward said while the club had been advised by Dugan’s management that he had received a “significant” offer from a rival club, St George Illawarra were not in a position to be able to match the offer.
“We’ve been in negotiations with Josh since November last season so it’s been an ongoing process but we’ve been advised by his management that they have a rival club that have made a significant offer,” he said.
“We had a clear message between both parties that we would keep each other open on all communications if we had a change of plans or if they had a change of plans. Or they had a better offer [than what] was on the table from us.
“They’re very high expectations for us to meet over the length of the contract and the salary. And we aren’t in a position at the moment to meet those high expectations.”
Millward intimated the uncertainty surrounding the salary cap for next season had played a part in St George Illawarra’s decision.
“Obviously the salary cap is still very open for debate and it’s obviously a much higher level than list management,” he said.
“So in the best interests of the club we’ve got to take on a lot of factors – multiple years of the salary cap moving forward, keeping our current squad and also the salary cap has been moving a fair bit over the last three months over how much it will be.
“You don’t want to get yourself in a position where we’re vulnerable down the track or we’re cornered on what we can do. So we have to keep working with the parameters we’re being guided by at the moment.”
Dugan and Dragons coach Paul McGregor believe the 27-year-old’s best position is fullback but St George Illawarra have reportedly tabled him an offer to play centre, a role which typically would pay less.
It is understood if Cronulla were successful in landing Dugan it would not be to play fullback, with young star Valentine Holmes locked in as Sharks coach Shane Flanagan’s No.1 for the next decade.
Speaking to the media last week, Flanagan chose not to confirm or deny the speculation.
“I don’t know what Josh is doing so I can’t speculate on that,” he said.
“He’s an Australian centre, a Test centre at the moment so he’s a quality player. We’ve always said we’re after quality players at our club.”