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The St George Illawarra Dragons have officially signed representative fullback Josh Dugan, who celebrates his 23rd birthday today, for the remainder of the 2013 season.
“I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity that the Dragons and NRL have provided me and I am really excited about the next chapter of my career,” said Dugan.
“I am really keen to get back to training, in a team environment and do whatever it takes to get back out on off field.
“I have played with a few of the Dragons boys before and am keen to meet the others and play my part in the team.
“I grew up a Dragons fan, my whole family supports the Dragons and I am well aware of the pride and history associated with the Club and what the Club expects from me.”
Dragons CEO Peter Doust indicated that the club had undertaken extensive due diligence before offering Dugan a contract.
“The decision to sign Josh has been taken after thorough investigations of all relevant particulars,” said Dragons CEO Peter Doust.
“We conducted numerous formal interviews with Josh and had detailed discussions with the NRL, including the review of the outcomes of rehabilitation processes that have been undertaken regularly, over more than nine weeks.
“We believe it is important to note that Josh's breaches were not of an illegal nature, but rather breaches arising due to poor discipline and decisions.”
Doust indicated that the Club’s welfare and education programs were a key part of the overall decision and that the NRL had been pivotal in this space over the past 10 weeks.
“Josh is a young guy who acknowledges that he has had some problems and that he could have made better decisions along the way but he has taken some positive steps towards addressing the areas for concern and is looking for a second chance,” said Doust.
“We believe we can deliver a fresh start, supported by our Club’s well-established processes in player welfare management with ongoing education programs, continuing with what Josh has started at the NRL.
“We have also consulted the NRL, in particular their Education and Welfare Department, with whom Josh has been working since he finished with Canberra and we are fully conversant with the requirements of a successful outcome for all, in the future.
“In conjunction with the NRL, Josh has been working with a career advisor in recent times and has expressed a desire to find a suitable education path with the Dragons.
“Our Club has 16 players studying at University & our Graduates of League Program was established by our Captain Ben Creagh in conjunction with the University of Wollongong, enabling our players to align their training and study commitments with the support of specialised tutors.
“A further 14 players are studying a diploma, 23 are players are studying for various certificate 1-4 qualifications and nine are in apprenticeship or traineeship programs.”
Doust also indicated that the playing group had been consulted on the decision.
“We consulted our players who have played with Josh in representative teams or with him at the Raiders,” said Doust.
“The entire senior leadership group has also been consulted and we all agree, after understanding the circumstances and processes, that Josh could be provided the opportunity to join the Dragons.”
Doust wouldn’t elaborate on any details in relation to any special conditions in Josh's playing contract but did comment on the Club's attitude to social media.
“We recognise that social media is a contemporary method of communication that can be extremely positive for communication when used responsibly, particularly for athletes in communicating with their fans,” said Doust.
“There will not be a ban at the Club for Josh however, he will be required to adhere to the Club’s comprehensive social media and communications policies and be involved in ongoing education in this area, in particular,”
Dragons Coach Steve Price is looking forward to Dugan joining the squad and indicated that Josh was prepared to fit in with the team and club culture.
“Josh is a young guy who is an extremely talented rugby league player who will be a great addition to our squad, especially with our injury concerns, but it is important that he fits in to our team culture and follows our policies and practices,” said Price.
“Josh is well aware of what is expected of him at the Dragons and from the conversations that I have had with him, I see no reason why he won’t be a positive contributor.
“He is extremely appreciative of the opportunity and determined to make the most of his second chance.”
Dragons Captain Ben Creagh endorsed the sentiments of his Coach.
“We are all excited to have a player of Josh’s calibre join the Club and we look forward to having the opportunity to formally meet him over the next couple of days,” said Creagh.
“Josh is a very talented player who will naturally slot into the fullback role and play an important role for us on the field, especially since we have lost Gerard, for the year, through injury.
“I have been across the conversations and developments with the Club and am pleased to hear that he is keen to make the most of his opportunity. I understand he is respectful of the club and our standards.
“I am also happy to know that he has been working with the NRL’s Education and Welfare Department and is keen to continue this and have a focus away from rugby league.”