Dugan open to shock Japanese rugby switch

Josh Dugan is considering a move to Japanese rugby union but insists his preference would be to remain at the Cronulla Sharks beyond 2021.

Dugan is one of several Sharks whose contract runs out at the season’s end as the Sutherland Shire side prepares to usher in a new era under Craig Fitzgibbon.

The 30-year-old told reporters on Thursday that he has been speaking to All Blacks star TJ Perenara about his time playing the 15-man-code in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Perenara has been linked with a code switch of his own this week, with the Sydney Roosters keen to find a first-class replacement for recently retired hooker Jake Friend.

“All this COVID stuff has probably thrown a spanner in the works a little bit with (playing overseas) but I have been talking to TJ Perenara and Aaron Smith, a couple of the boys,” Dugan said.

Dugan played rugby union at a high level during his youth so feels a code switch would be a natural fit as he enters the twilight of his football career.

“I’m open to it. My first priority would be to stay here in Sydney, but as a player, you only have a certain shelf life,” he said.

“I grew up playing rugby. I actually played rugby before I played rugby league. I made all the rep sides as a kid for rugby and went to a rugby-dominated school with Marist Brothers in Canberra.”

Dugan could be packing his bags before too long.Source:Getty Images

The former Raider and Dragon has come close to making the move to union in the past, telling News Corp in 2017 he had been in talks with two rugby union sides as he mapped out possible exits from rugby league.

Cronulla currently boasts a surplus of crafty outside backs, with youngsters Ronaldo Mulitalo, Jesse Ramien and Mawene Hiroti all on the books for at least this season.

Earlier this week, the Sharks announced the signing of another back with plenty of big-game experience — former Storm and Origin star Will Chambers.

Chambers had himself defected to Japanese rugby union side Suntory Sungoliath in 2019 but only managed two games before making a return to league.

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