Josh Morris, Josh Dugan and the real measure of courage in rugby league

The actions of Josh Morris and Josh Dugan in recent days tell you all you need to know about the two of them as players, writes PAUL KENT.

The contradictions of the modern game were everywhere at Shark Park on Tuesday.

Training finished and Andrew Fifita, who so often wears a black hat in this game, opened that big charitable heart he hides away and called in his teammates for a photo.

Fifita has worked hard this summer to fill the leadership space left by the retirement of Paul Gallen and several others in recent seasons. Lots of talk, lots of leading from the front.

Josh Morris did what he always does, which is give everything, and after training strongly at fullback he dropped into the photo to lend his wait for the cause.

The Sharks will wear #FightForFine hashtags on their jerseys at this weekend’s Nines in Perth. They want to remind everyone to support teammate Fine Kula through his fight with brain cancer.

Morris has trained strongly despite not getting a release. Picture by Brett Costello.
Morris has trained strongly despite not getting a release.

Fifita called in the rehab guys who already had finished their training in the gym and were now standing on the sideline watching them finish the field session, and the players came together for a snap to be sent out on social media.

And so they were all there, except for one.

Josh Dugan finished his rehab training and disappeared without word or comment.

He went off home after working on an injury which the club has, as yet, not been able to diagnose.

Dugan has dismissed the club’s lack of diagnosis and is now said to be searching for a doctor who can find the injury he insists is there.

For a player chewing up $900,000 in this season’s salary cap and $975,000 next season, it is enough to cause temporary blindness to Morris and his coaching staff.

In some places there is a thought Dugan’s lack of enthusiasm might be connected to a plan to get medically retired, which would allow a full payout of his substantial contract and allow him to walk away from a game he seems to have lost all enthusiasm to play anymore.

Dugan’s apparent check-out is why coach John Morris needed not even five minutes to knock back Josh Morris’s request to be released to the Sydney Roosters.

Morris’s character is strong, the kind the Sharks need. Any club, for that matter.

If only Dugan had a spoonful of what Morris has.

He trains hard and plays hard and is reliable everywhere he plays. In a season where they are already $350,000 under the cap in the second year of their punishment for cap cheating, and when half a dozen players take up almost half of their cap, letting the right-priced Josh Morris go seems absurd.

Morris has proven his quality over and over again. Picture by Brett Costello.
Morris has proven his quality over and over again.

On Tuesday, Roosters recruitment boss Daniel Anderson wanted to see if he could make something work in a conversation with Cronulla football manager Phil Moss. The Roosters had hoped they could have Morris in time to join them at the World Club Challenge in England later this month.

The Sharks were resolute that Morris was going nowhere. They know they need more men like him at the club, not less.

That slow progress between Anderson and Moss might have shifted slightly on Tuesday.

There are doubts Dugan wants anything to do with football anymore. Picture by Brett Costello.
There are doubts Dugan wants anything to do with football anymore.

While little ground was gained in the morning conversation, several phone calls later in the day began to explore different options.

The Sharks are limited at the negotiating table but they can make that work. With little room in his cap there is an opportunity for John Morris to strengthen his depth through the middle.

While the stocks of outside backs at Cronulla are strong, if not quite as overflowing as some believe, and which promoted Josh Morris’s request to be released, the Sharks are skinny in middle forwards and would consider a trade for a middle forward.

The Roosters are considering whether to make the offer.

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