Jon Tuxworth August 01, 2012
Star Canberra fullback Josh Dugan has already admitted his ''bull at a gate'' approach can be his downfall as much as an attribute.
But despite his past two seasons being crippled by a series of frustrating injuries, former Raiders custodian Gary Belcher has warned it would be foolish for him to tweak his aggressive style.
The 22-year-old's dynamic and explosive running game has helped him establish himself as one of the NRL's hottest young talents.
It has also contributed to him missing almost 45 per cent of Canberra's games since the start of the 2011 season, a period in which he hasn't managed to string together more than five straight games.
Dugan declared earlier this month, on the eve of returning from an ankle injury, he has no intentions of changing his game.
And that stance has the full backing of two-time premiership winner Belcher.
Dugan copped a knock to his ribs in Canberra's loss to Newcastle on Sunday, but is expected to play against Brisbane this weekend.
He has also carried a serious AC joint injury for most of the year, which will require surgery over the off-season.
''He plays nice and tough which is good to see, and when you play that way sometimes you get injuries and a bad run of them,'' Belcher said.
''I wouldn't suggest to Josh to change his game at all, I love the way he plays and he's just been a little bit unlucky.
''He's just in a bad patch early in his career where he's copping a few.''
Dugan's rotten misfortune has coincided with Canberra's other highest-paid player, Terry Campese, missing the bulk of the last two seasons through knee surgery.
When the Raiders last made the finals in 2010, Dugan played 23 matches while Campese featured in all 26 games.
It highlights how important the club's two most dangerous attacking players are to their chances.
''Another one of their best players [Campese] has been out for the best part of two years too, you just have to cop it on the chin and enjoy the good times when they come back,'' Belcher said.
Belcher highlighted his former teammate Laurie Daley as a rare example of a player successfully adjusting his natural game due to injuries.
The five-eighth sacrificed his running game to concentrate more on ball playing, but Dugan's situation is a completely different scenario.
The Tuggeranong junior's potency is based around breaking the first tackle, and Belcher said sacrificing that to avoid injury would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. ''I can't see how he [Dugan] can change his game,'' he said.
''The only person I saw change his game around injuries was Laurie Daley, when he had a series of hamstring injuries that were threatening his career.
''Laurie just had to pull back a gear and not run as much as he did, but he was a wonderful ball player and he had good players outside him. He tempered his game a little bit, but he didn't take the aggression out of his game that's for sure.''
Dugan has no intentions of doing so either.
''It's pretty discouraging and it's [been] hard to stay motivated the last couple of years when I haven't strung more than five or six games together,'' Dugan told The Canberra Times earlier this month.
''I don't think I could have avoided any of my injuries over the last couple of years, it's just one of those things where I get caught in a tackle.
''I tried to change the way I play because I get caught in those positions a bit, but you can't really do that.
''I'm pretty driven to win all the time and [my style] can be one of my attributes, and it can also be one of my downfalls. But that's me, that's the way I play, and I don't think I'll change that.''
Dugan's run of rotten luck:
Matches: Played 11 of a possible 19
Rds 4-7 - AC joint (four games)
Rd 12 - Disciplinary reasons (one game)
Rds 17-19 - Ankle sydesmosis (three games)
Matches: Played 13 of a possible 24
Rds 1-2 - Calf (two games)
Rds 5-6 - Calf (two games)
Rd 9 - Infected boil (one game)
Rd 11 - NSW Origin selection (one game)
Rd 13 - Ankle (four games)
Rd 24 - Groin (one game)
TOTAL: Played 24 of a possible 43 games (55.8%).