ST George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has denied there is a rift between him and club management over the future of Josh Dugan.
The NSW star’s tenure at Wollongong beyond the 2017 NRL season is up in the air with his management at odds with the club over his asking price.
The sticking point is that Dragons management have tabled him a three-year contract worth a reported $2.2 million and told him they see him as their long- term centre.
While the deal would make him the highest-paid centre in the game, Dugan has stated his future is in the fullback jersey and has therefore demanded a marquee contract and is said to have set an asking price of around $1 million a season.
To complicate the matter, McGregor on Tuesday reiterated his position that Dugan was the best No. 1 at the club and he would continue to play him there, a stance which put him at odds with Dragons recruitment manager Ian Millward.
McGregor, who is off contract himself at the end of 2017, denied there was disunity over Dugan’s future, despite the seemingly mixed messages.
“If I’m coach, I’ll be picking the side and the number that I want them to play,” McGregor said.
“It’s that simple. At the moment, Josh Dugan is the best fullback at the club.”
Dugan plays fullback at club level but at centre for NSW and Australia.
Last month, he said he had spoken to overseas rugby union clubs and was not guaranteed to stay in the NRL.
Asked about the fact he and Millward apparently were not on the same page, McGregor said: “What if another coach is there? Will he decide where he plays?
“The value of a player is what a club wants to pay a player and what the management wants for the player.
“And it’s up to the coach to decide what position he plays when he’s at the club. That’s how it works.
“So let Josh’s management and the club management work out what he’s worth and I’ll work out where he’s going to play.”
McGregor last year stepped away from player recruitment commitments to try to concentrate on coaching — a move which had paid dividends with the Dragons on top of the ladder after seven rounds.
Asked how much say he has on recruitment and retention, he said: “Zero when it comes to money.”
McGregor confirmed Dugan would make his return from a hamstring injury in next week’s blockbuster Anzac Day clash with the Sydney Roosters.
“He trained well last week. It was a grade-two (strain) — he needed that extra time,” McGregor said.
“With the nine-day turnaround, it wasn’t worth pushing him out in front of the Cowboys when Jase (Nightingale) has done such a great job and Kurt Mann was healthy.
“He probably ran at about 90 per cent on Saturday just before the game against the Cowboys. Training today, he was outstanding.”
Originally published as Mary fires up over Dugan No. 1 questions
SOURCE: newsnow sport