Lee Gaskin June 11, 2012
Josh Dugan was impressive against the Knights on Saturday night. Photo: Getty Images
Josh Dugan's transition to five-eighth faces its sternest test when the Canberra Raiders star goes one-on-one with the world's best No.6, Johnathan Thurston.
Dugan has steadily improved since being moved from fullback in the past two games, but will get a true indication of his progress when the Raiders take on the North Queensland Cowboys on June 23.
The former NSW Origin custodian has the opportunity with the Raiders having a bye this weekend to iron out any chinks in his game before he stands opposite the Maroons and Kangaroos five-eighth.
Dugan played a starring role in the Raiders' 32-16 win against the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night, having a hand in three of his team's five tries.
But he also committed five errors, including throwing a speculative cut-out pass close to Newcastle's line and kicking out on the full.
It was just Dugan's second game at five-eighth after having limited involvement in the 40-0 drubbing at the hands of the Benji Marshall-led Wests Tigers.
The Tigers targeted Dugan in defence, exploiting their dominance in possession to force the talented 21-year-old to make 28 tackles and nullify his attacking influence.
Against the Knights, the Raiders enjoyed 51 per cent of possession, Dugan making just 12 tackles along with five tackle breaks and three try assists.
Dugan's halves partner Josh McCrone was confident their combination would only get better as Dugan gets more used to his new role.
''If I can get us around the park then he can throw them like he did, I'd be happy with him setting up three tries,'' McCrone said.
''He was better for the run. If we get at least 50 per cent of the ball we can score points, so all we've got to do is defend it and we did a fair job [on Saturday night].''
The Raiders had conceded almost 34 points per game in their previous six games, but displayed plenty of desperation to keep the Knights to just three tries.
''We had a bit of pride in our line. It's just an attitude … everyone working together,'' McCrone said.