Josh Dugan has claimed his pre-State of Origin drinking session wouldn’t have made the news if he wasn’t involved and that he is paying the price for his bad boy reputation.
Speaking about a tumultuous two months in which his name was repeatedly dragged through the mud, a forthright Dugan said he had been unfairly criticised because of his past indiscretions.
In July, Dugan was embroiled in controversy after it was revealed he and Blake Ferguson were drinking at Lennox Head pub five days before NSW’s Origin III loss to Queensland.
He was further tarnished last month when dropped for the Dragons’ round 25 win over Penrith after he missed the team bus.
Dugan said his trip to the pub with Ferguson, which was investigated by the NSWRL, was blown out of proportion because of his history.
“There’s no easy way to say it, if it was anyone else but me and Fergo, I don’t think it would have made the news,” Dugan said at the Rugby League Players Association awards.
He said he was not drunk and was having his photograph taken with children.
Dugan was in 2013 sacked from Canberra after he and Ferguson were pictured on a rooftop drinking vodka mixed drinks when they should have been at a Raiders’ recovery session.
The NSW and Australian centre said he had worked hard to change his image and turn his life around since then.
“It’s disappointing when you get the media, some of the guys slandering me and running my name through the mud again,” he said.
“It’s all because who I am.
“I’ve done a lot of work off the field to change that perception of me from when I was at Canberra.
“I’ve done a lot of stuff off the field with the community and the NRL state of mind (campaign).”
The Cronulla-bound outside back said he was shattered to have missed the Dragons’ clash with the Panthers and revealed he missed the bus because he simply misread the team schedule.
“It was heartbreaking to sit in the sheds and watch the game,” Dugan said. “I got back and did everything right and put my best foot forward in the Dogs game.
“Unfortunately we didn’t make the finals. Other than that I don’t think I’ve had a slip-up in the five years I’ve been there. I don’t think it’s a sign of anything to come.
“It was just a lapse in concentration, I misread the memo and turned up at a time that wasn’t right. I paid the price for that.”