Cronulla have pulled off one of the major recruitment coups of the season after signing St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan on a lucrative four-year deal from the 2018 NRL season.
The Sharks on Saturday confirmed the prize signature of Dugan on a reported $3 million deal.
“Josh will bring quality and experience to our backline next year and, to sign the current Origin and Australian Test centre, is a major coup for the club and for our future,” Flanagan said.
“We have a number of exciting young backs coming through our grades and Josh’s experience will be invaluable in helping with their continued development.
“Josh has just turned 27 and I am confident his best football is still ahead of him.”
The Sharks’ signing ends a six-month standoff between Dugan and Dragons officials over whether he was worth the big money as a fullback, or a lesser paid centre.
Both Dugan and Dragons coach Paul McGregor insist that he is a fullback, while recruitment boss Ian Millward was adamant the club viewed him as a long-term three-quarter.
However Sharks coach Shane Flanagan suggested that Dugan, would play a mentoring role for current fullback Valentine Holmes.
“He is looking forward to being part of the development of players such as Val Holmes,” he said.
“As to where he might play for next year, quite simply he is the current Test right centre and who can also play fullback which is a bonus for our club.”
Sharks captain Paul Gallen had no doubt Dugan would be an asset for years to come.
“We are wrapped to have him. I’ve been lucky enough to play rep footy with Josh over the years and he is a good guy and an outstanding team player,” Gallen said.
“He is going to be an enormous boost to our team and Josh will be a great benefit to the club.”
Dugan has scored 53 tries in 144 NRL games in stints at Canberra and then St George Illawarra, and has played seven Tests for the Kangaroos and nine Origins for the Blues.
His exit from Wollongong means the Dragons will now be on the lookout for a new fullback, although the club does have young options in Matt Dufty and Jai Field.