The last of the Cronulla Sharks’ recruits has arrived for pre-season training, with a relaxed and rejuvenated Josh Dugan clocking on for duty in the Sutherland Shire.
Seeing his Australian and Origin centre go through his paces brought a smile to coach Shane Flanagan’s face on Monday.
“He looked great. Obviously he had the World Cup but he’s been out fishing and relaxing, so not doing a lot but he looks really good,” Flanagan said.
“We did some running and strength work today and some field work. It’s another day tomorrow so we’ll ramp it up again.”
Dugan announced last May he would be leaving St George Illawarra on a four-year deal with the Sharks.
He wasn’t the only representative player to return to Sharks training on Monday.
“Along with Duges, Wade Graham, Val Holmes and Andrew Fifita all started today. It’s good to have them back,” the coach said.
It would be expected they might want to have a quiet word with Flanagan on his positional plans seeing he has three fullbacks on his books now in Dugan, Matt Moylan and Holmes.
But he told NRL.com in November that Holmes had the No.1 jersey despite crossing for 12 tries on the Kangaroos wing in last year’s World Cup.
“The speculation about Val comes because of how good he plays on the wing, not how poorly he plays at fullback,” Flanagan said last month.
This week Flanagan said none of his players had approached him on his backline plans for the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
“It’s got nothing to do with them and they know that. They have a team-first mentality and will do what’s required,” he said.
“They just train as there’s no need to speak about anything like that yet.”
Flanagan has enough to do preparing the new, and old, Sharks for their two trial games: Manly at Southern Cross Stadium on February 17 and Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on February 24.
“There’s lots of things happening. We’ve already got some good combos working,” he said.
“While everyone thinks about attack we’ve got to get Moylan and Wade Graham working defensively together. We’ve got to get Dugan familiar with our systems. That’s my priority more than our offence – getting all the new boys up to speed with our defensive systems.
“Wade has got a whole new partner so there’s a bit of work to be done.”
The full complement of NRL squad players are back but one is not yet on the field – Andrew Fifita – as he is in the final stages of recovery from clean-up ankle surgery after playing for Tonga.
“He’s doing rehab training at the moment. He’s not out on the field but in the gym,” Flanagan said.
“But he looks good anyway and he’s only a kilo over what we wanted him to be. So there’s no problem with his weight.”