Dugan backs his body to go on in the NRL

Josh Dugan says he's completed his best pre-season with the Sharks since joining in 2018.
Josh Dugan says he's completed his best pre-season with the Sharks since joining in 2018.

Cronulla veteran Josh Dugan is adamant his battered body is holding up well enough for him to play beyond 2021, insistent he is nowhere near his finish line.

The off-contract Dugan confirmed on Tuesday his management had told the Sharks he wanted to re-sign, buoyed on by his longest pre-season in five years.

The 30-year-old was told at this point last year he should consider a career-ending surgery on his knee, after persistent arthritis stopped him training.

But he missed just three NRL games last year after returning in round three, and got through the majority of this summer with the Sharks.

On a workload where he completed four days of training each week, only a brief neck scare from a freak accident at training forced him out of a few further sessions.

"I've done four of the five sessions every week, got through everything I needed to do," the former NSW State of Origin centre said.

"I got my body composition right down to where I need to be to play and and be comfortable and be fit and healthy.

"To be able to get through 90 per cent of it to plan and be able to get those kilometres in my legs, I'm feeling good going in round one.

"I've spoken with my manager and we've just started trying to get the ball rolling here and hopefully stay for another year or two."

Dugan is not the only man off contract at Cronulla, with Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan headlining a squad where 15 players are not signed beyond this year.

Coach John Morris' future also remains in the spotlight, even before kick-off in Sunday night's season opener against St George Illawarra at Kogarah.

Morris remains popular with the Sharks squad, having brought the majority of the club's younger players through the grade together.

He has also taken them to the finals in his first two seasons.

But he faces a tough start to 2021, with seven games against fellow top-eight sides from last year in the first 10 rounds.

And players are well aware they have the chance to help take the spotlight off their coach, who they say has remained undeterred at training.

"We know what we can control here," recruit Aiden Tolman, himself on a one-year deal, said.

"Ultimately we will be judged on how we perform on the field and that's how we'll be judged as a playing group and coaching staff.

"If we go out there and perform well it will put all the stuff to bed."

Australian Associated Press