NRL 2021: Cronulla Sharks, John Morris, future, contract, Shane Flanagan, Andrew Fifita, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan, Josh Dugan

Cronulla coach John Morris requested a new contract midway through last season, only for his wish for an extension rejected by the club as uncertainty over his future grows.

Morris has less than 12 months remaining on his current deal at the Sharks, and a report in the Sydney Morning Herald claims that the 40-year-old had already been told to focus on his current deal.

According to one Sydney Morning Herald source, Morris was told: “You came into the job with eyes wide open and knew the challenges you would be inheriting.”

They also pointed to the fact the club was unsure of his standing due to the fact the game had only just got back on the field after the COVID-19-enforced shutdown.

Round 1

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Josh Dugan in talks to extend his contract beyond 2021

Cronulla veteran Josh Dugan has revealed he is in discussions to extend his contract at the Sharks beyond 2021, declaring he has “unfinished business” despite calls for him to retire due to injury.

Dugan, 30, was criticised over the summer for being disinterested as he was unable to train consecutive days due to inflammation in his knee.

Despite this setback, the former Test and Origin star has managed to play 13 games this season.

This has convinced Dugan that he still has plenty left in his ageing tank.

“I feel good – I’ve got one more year left on my contract and I’ve spoken to the club about maybe extending,” Dugan said.

“We are going through that process now, so we just have to wait and see.

“I feel like I’ve been playing really good footy and I’ve got next year as well.

“There is a little bit of unfinished business too. I feel like we have a pretty good squad here.”

As a veteran of 11 NRL seasons, Dugan is also ready to take on a greater leadership role at Cronulla.

The Sharks have a relatively young side following the departures of Paul Gallen, Matt Prior and Luke Lewis.

Dugan believes his knowledge of league’s ups and downs will be valuable for his younger teammates.

“I feel like I’m at a stage of my career now where I can be more of a teacher as well helping out the young guys,” he said.

“Over the next few years we’ve signed a lot of the younger guys, so I’m definitely keen to be a part of that.”

Cronulla face a tough run home with clashes against the Warriors, Roosters and Raiders.

The eighth-placed Sharks are four points ahead of the Warriors and Tigers, but they need to keep winning to secure their top eight position.

Dugan is confident Cronulla will make the finals if they discover their consistency.

“I think we have shown shades of it (our best) all year, but it has been a bit of a rollercoaster,” he said.

“We have some real good performances and then we dish up some crap like we did last week (against Newcastle).

“It was a bit embarrassing, and we didn’t turn up.”

Dugan respects the Warriors for their selflessness to keep the season going while their families are back in New Zealand, but he will put that admiration aside when they clash on Sunday.

“They (the Warriors) are still a mathematical chance, but we want to stop that on the weekend,” he said.

“We know if we get a win, we will be playing finals and they won’t.”

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Josh Dugan “ready” for his 200th NRL game

As Cronulla’s Josh Dugan prepares to play his 200th NRL game on Sunday, he reflects on his rollercoaster journey from an unprofessional skinny fullback to a senior player who has used his mistakes to become better.

Dugan says he is “ready to go” after a hamstring injury has delayed his milestone match for the past two weeks.

The ex-Test and Origin star will fittingly come up against former Canberra teammate and close friend, Parramatta winger Blake Ferguson.

The pair have come a long way from their repeated alcohol-fuelled indiscretions, including the infamous rooftop Bacardi Breezers moment in 2013 that led to Dugan’s exit from the Raiders.

Seven years on, the former bad boys have settled to become key players for Cronulla and Parramatta respectively.

For Dugan personally, his evolution as a player and a person has been significant.

“It is chalk and cheese – the person I was to who I am now,” Dugan said.

“I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason and learning from those things.

“Over the years I think I have proved that I have become a lot more mature, more of a role model and leading by example with things that I’ve done.

“There have been a few hiccups along the way, but from getting that kick up the bum I don’t think I have done anything as close to that since then.

“I haven’t made the same mistake twice. You live and you learn, and you get better from it.

“I think I have done that and then off the field I’ve found that balance outside of footy.

“Since I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve played more consistently, and my performances have proven that as well.”

Dugan has also battled with his fair share of injuries over the years.

Upon reflection, he concedes a lot of his setbacks were his own doing.

“I was young, and I thought just talent would get me by,” he said.

“I wasn’t as professional as I could have been, and I think that is what hurt me there.

“I was only averaging 13 or 14 games a year. I averaged 18 or 19 games at the Dragons and now I played 23 games last year.

“I’m pretty confident in the way I approach things now that I can get through the rest of the year.”

After reaching 93 per cent of his running speed at training on Tuesday, Dugan is confident of taking on the high-flying Eels.

He can’t wait to play his 200th NRL game – which gives him a chance to reminisce about his rookie year at the Raiders in 2009.

“My first three weeks when I debuted at Canberra, my first game was against Johnathan Thurston, second week was Trent Barrett and my third week was Darren Lockyer, so it was a baptism by fire,” he said.

“I was an 82-kilo ringing wet fullback at the time, but I wouldn’t change it.

“The journey I’ve had has been a rollercoaster, but again it has made me who I am, and I couldn’t be happier.

“Playing for Australia and winning an Origin series are up there as well.

“But there is one feather I’d like to put in my hat is to win a comp, so hopefully we can get there this year.”

As for taking on his old mate Ferguson, who is yet to score a try this season, Dugan is ready for the match-up.

“It is always a good battle with Fergo over the years and it always will be,” he said.

“He always plays as hard as he can, and we are expecting a big game out of him.

“We are going to have to contain him and make sure that he doesn’t score that try this week.”

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