Josh Dugan has potentially played his last game for St George Illawarra.
The representative centre, who will join fierce local rivals Cronulla next season, was left out of the Dragons side that scored a courageous 16-14 win over Penrith on Sunday to keep their season alive after he missed the team bus to the match.
Dugan was likely to be named in the St George Illawarra side to play in their must-win clash against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Sunday but, given Kurt Mann’s performance deputising at right centre against the Panthers, Dragons coach Paul McGregor was noncommittal whether or not Dugan would play against the Bulldogs.
Fairfax Media reported Dugan had apologised to his teammates after the Penrith game after he drove himself to Pepper Stadium, only to be told McGregor had decided to drop him after consultation with the team’s leadership group.
If the Dragons lose to Canterbury their season is over. And, if McGregor does leave Dugan out, the 27-year-old will have played his last game in the red V before joining the Sharks.
Dragons captain Gareth Widdop said he backed the decision to drop Dugan.
“We’ve got standards in our playing group. If you’re not living up to expectations then these are the big calls that we make,” he said.
“I’m fully supportive of the decision for the growth of the club. You’ve got to live up to standards. We’re professional athletes and you’ve got to do the right thing. We’ll move on from that now.
“They’re just standards we have as a club and as a team. If you don’t live up to them there’s consequences and on the back of that it could have disturbed us. But I thought we moved on pretty well from it. To the boys’ credit they just focused on their job individually what they needed to do and we went out there and performed well and got the win which we needed.”
You’ve got to live up to standards. We’re professional athletes.Dragons captain Gareth Widdop on Josh Dugan
St George Illawarra are in a four-way battle for three finals positions heading into the final round, two points behind Penrith, North Queensland and Manly. But the Dragons’ superior for and against (+89) gives them an advantage with the Sea Eagles (+24) and Panthers (+61) to meet at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.
Unless Manly and Penrith draw and the Cowboys (+34) beat Brisbane on Thursday night, a win for the Dragons over the Bulldogs would guarantee them a finals place.
McGregor acknowledged the Dragons’ finals destiny was in their own hands.
“We’re capable of doing it,” he said.
“I’ve seen this team grow in all areas of the game and [against Penrith] was another area where at stages we’ve been great [with] momentum. And when momentum swung the other way we’ve been below standard. I thought [against Penrith] we changed that. And we haven’t done that for quite some time, probably [since] early in the year.
“Statistically you can look at it, we’re a top four side. It’s about going out there and playing our best footy for 80 minutes and if we can do that we’ll win and then play finals footy.”