THE Roosters are preparing to poach Josh Dugan from the Dragons as the Kangaroos star remains locked in a contract stand-off with St George Illawarra.
While the Roosters have identified James Tedesco as their No.1 target to play fullback, the club has drawn up a hit list of other potential fullbacks should Tedesco remain at the Tigers or link with Canterbury.
The next cab off the rank is Dugan, who remains unsigned beyond this season as negotiations with St George Illawarra stall.
Nearly all the Roosters’ main outside backs are off contract at the end of this year, with only the up-and-coming Joseph Manu contracted beyond 2017 of those players who played against Newcastle on Friday night.
The “rested” Latrell Mitchell is also under contract, but the likes of Michael Gordon, Daniel Tupou, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Blake Ferguson are all up for grabs.
Ferguson is eyeing a significant contract upgrade, having established himself as a representative player since joining the Roosters after 18 months out of the NRL following his sacking at the Raiders while Tupou has been linked to Parramatta and Manly.
With so many outside backs becoming free agents and with forward Kane Evans set to sign with the Eels, there will be plenty of salary cap space for the Roosters to make a pitch for a high-profile fullback such as Dugan or Tedesco.
They had kept money in the bank to pursue Jarryd Hayne, who was due to end his three-year stint at San Francisco 49ers this year, but the club has since gone cold on Hayne following his return to the NRL with the Titans last year. He could come back on the radar should Dugan or Tedesco brush the Roosters, with Hayne having until next month to take up an option to remain at the Titans.
Dugan has signalled his intentions to stay at St George Illawarra but the club have yet to budge on its original offer of $2.2 million over three years. Dugan’s asking price is about $1 million a season, with the former Raider showing no desire to move away from his preferred fullback position, while the Dragons see him as the club’s long-term centre option.
“It’s a big decision for me to make career wise, moving to the centres when I’ve played my whole career at fullback,” Dugan said last week. “I still see myself as a decent fullback. I’ve worked pretty hard all pre-season at getting that ball-playing back into my game.”
While Dragons coach Paul McGregor wants Dugan to play fullback, he is no longer involved in player negotiations, with the club’s recruitment manager Ian Millward offering Dugan a deal to remain as a centre.
Dugan will have a chance to impress his future suitors with the 26-year-old expected to make his return from a hamstring injury in time to play the Roosters in the annual Anzac Day clash next Tuesday.