It appears that Josh Dugan’s time at the Canberra Raiders is up, with the club likely to sack the fullback after yet another embarrassing alcohol-related incident.
But rather than plead for leniency and pledge to turn over a new leaf, it appears that Dugan’s manager has already begun putting out feelers to get Dugan a contract with a Sydney-based team. And if the Todd Carney experience is anything to go by, there will no doubt be some unscrupulous club keen to snap Dugan up for a bargain.
Then what will happen is this: Dugan will be “revitalised” and credit his new club and team-mates for helping him turn his life around. His results on the field will speak of a new-found calmness off the field. He will win representative honours and be heralded as one of the great fullbacks in the NRL.
Countless feature articles will be written about him, accompanied by various black and white portraiture photographs, in which he’ll appear shirtless with arms crossed and a steely, emotionless focus. His myriad tattoos – including that absurd one of NFL murderer/born-again Christian, Ray Lewis – will portray to the reader a tortured, troubled soul, that of a young, impressionable man hell-bent on appearing tough among his fellow rugby league brethren.
But underneath this fresh PR image, he’ll secretly have everything he ever wished for. A generous contract, a public profile in Sydney, and access to the city’s finest, most fiendish drinking establishments.
The Canberra Raiders have been known for producing hundreds of talented, home-grown footballers, who consequently go off to forge their careers elsewhere after being gifted the greatest of opportunities in the nation’s capital. Keeping good players in Canberra is the job of the Raiders’ board – and it is not an easy task.
The seductive bright lights of Sydney can be too much for a young 22-year-old NRL footballer based in Canberra. While Sydney-based NRL players can head to the Cross, slap it up with John Ibrahim and snort coke off the nubile bodies of various female groupies in a private room, Canberra’s youngsters must settle for a few luke-warm Bacardi Breezers on top of a rented house in the suburb of Nicholls. You only live once, as they say (or occasionally hashtag).
We’ve all been guilty of getting on the cans before work. It’s a self-destructive move – and I’m all for the occasional bout of self-destruction. But instead of turning up to training the day after his Instagram bender, Dugan tweeted this pathetic cop-out to his Canberra team-mates and fans:
”I apologise to my teammates and the fans but this is personal and needs to be sorted out as soon as possible for me to move forward.”
There’s nothing personal about this. And no-one really gives a shit about Josh Dugan’s personal life, anyway. He is a rugby league player and has a duty to turn up and play football – and do it well, considering the amount of money he gets paid. I don’t care whether he moves forward or not with his “inner demons,” or what-have-you. I’ve got my own fucking demons to worry about, just like the rest of us.
Now rugby league – and professional sports in general – is different to your everyday white collar job. Club culture is vitally important; no one person should be more important than the next. There are no tiers of management or C-suite executives within a rugby league team, in other words.
Also, in a “one team” town like Canberra, fans feel emotionally invested in the players. They feel personally let down when it turns out that one of their key players has been consistently skipping training to go drinking. Canberra is a club with a strong history – players like Mal Meninga, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and Brad Clyde were not just exceptional players, but dedicated professionals who squeezed every last drop of ability out of themselves and their team-mates.
What’s more, Meninga and Daley both battled injury throughout their careers, but always managed to stay on the park. Dugan, however, only needs to break a fingernail to skip training and embark upon an epic bender.
But if his heart isn’t in the game of rugby league anymore, then that’s totally cool. He should just quit and take up a job in construction, or at a call centre, or whatever, and drink/party/do as much ecstasy as any 22-year-old in their right mind should.
But if Dugan gets axed from the Raiders and quickly signs a deal with a Sydney club, I’m betting that it’ll end up exactly as I foreshadowed before. He’ll get everything he’s been dreaming of ever since he broke into the top grade. Finally, he’ll be able to juggle rugby league stardom with a lifestyle of brazen, unfettered hedonism in Sin City.
It’s what every young Raider dreams of.
By Dave Edwards