'He's human like everyone else' - Sharks skipper skipper rallies behind Josh Dugan after emotional break down

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen insists its imperative the playing group rally around teammate Josh Dugan following his emotional outburst at media negativity in the game.

Dugan battled tears as he opened up on his struggles on the battering his reputation has taken since being sacked by Canberra in 2013.

Gallen admits Dugan has this year been heavily burdened not only by an injury- riddled first season at the Sharks, but also by the off-field pressures.

"He's always got a bit going on. He does stress about things. He does stress about the way he's treated by certain parts of the media, how public perceive him at times," Gallen said.

"You probably saw in that interview, he's human like everyone else and sometimes emotions can get the better of you and wear you down.

"And I think that's what's happened to him throughout this year."

Dugan's comments come on the eve of the Sharks' semi-final against Penrith, where a loss would knock them out of the race for a second premiership in three years.

Paul Gallen of the Sharks. Source: Photosport

Gallen, who was at pains to point out the hours of community work the club does during the year, said the priority is to look after Dugan's wellbeing.

"I know how much Duges does for other people," Gallen said.

"He doesn't go looking for the limelight. He doesn't have a camera behind his back when he sees a kid in hospital.

"Other people don't understand that. When he gets bagged, he finds it hard to take because he knows how much he does.

"At the end of the day, we've just got to get him right mentally over the next couple of days and he's got to go out there and play his game on the field."

Sydney Roosters veteran Cooper Cronk weighed in on the saga, saying players handle criticism differently to others but need to access available support networks during tough times.

"Part of the exposure is the fact that players get paid handsomely for what we do," he said.

"If you want to complain or get upset about the exposure, then I think you probably hand back half your pay cheque because without that you don't get it.

"On the other side, everyone has a right to an opinion, but the individual determines whether they cross the line or not.

"Have people crossed the line? Rightly so. Have players done the wrong thing and deserved it, rightly so. At the end of the day we're all here to try make the NRL as best as it possibly can."


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Storm star Billy Slater charged for shoulder charge, faces NRL grand final ban

Billy Slater's hopes of an NRL grand final fairytale farewell are over unless he can beat a ban for a shoulder charge at the judiciary this week.

Slater was charged with a grade-one offence for his hit on Cronulla's Sosaia Feki on Friday night, meaning he will miss one match even with an early guilty plea.

The retiring superstar was penalised for the incident but not placed on report on Friday night, after he came across in cover to save a try and put Feki into touch.

Melbourne are confident they will beat the charge and began preparing their defence as early as Friday night, and will push for the case to be brought forward to Monday if the NRL deems it possible.

"It's pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you're going across at top speed trying to save a try like that," Slater said after Friday night's win.

"I was going across in desperation to try and save the try. I was at top speed, Sosaia Feki was at top speed.

"I thought he was going to step back inside me hence why I was upright. It's hard to get your head down for a shoulder tackle position.
"It was just an unfortunate collision."

Melbourne captain Cameron Smith also missed the Storm's 2008 grand final loss to Manly through suspension, while Kiwi hooker Issac Luke is the last big name to have missed a decider due to a ban with South Sydney in 2014.

The loss of Slater will be a massive blow to the Storm regardless of whether they play the Sydney Roosters or Souths, given he is still close to his best despite being 317 games into his NRL career.

The fullback scored two tries and set up another in Friday night's 22-6 preliminary final win over the Sharks at AAMI Park, and also saved two tries at the back - with one being the hit on Feki.

If he is suspended, youngster Jahrome Hughes would likely come in for just his 18th NRL match and first finals clash. Scott Drinkwater and Ryley Jacks would form less likely options.

The charge comes after Sharks coach Shane Flanagan declared on Friday night he should be free to play in the decider and stand-in captain Luke Lewis questioned how he could be suspended at all.

"What do you want him to do?" Lewis said.

"He's one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line.

"If someone was to miss a game for something like that, I don't know what our game would be coming to. It's a contact sport.

The retiring Storm star could face suspension for this hit on Sosaia Feki. Source: SKY


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Let Billy Slater play declares Sharks stalwart: 'I don't know what our game would be coming to'

Cronulla's Luke Lewis has leapt to the defence of Billy Slater, implying the game's gone soft if the Melbourne superstar is banned for his farewell NRL grand final.

Slater faces a nervous wait to see if he is sanctioned for a shoulder charge on Sosaia Feki, after he was penalised for throwing his body at the Sharks winger to save a try in Storm's 22-6 preliminary final win.

A charge would attract 200 demerit points, enough to rule him out of next Sunday's decider against South Sydney or the Sydney Roosters.

The former Kangaroos and Queensland fullback would need to successfully fight the punishment at the NRL judiciary to have any hope of ending his career in the ANZ stadium showpiece.

But Lewis was adamant his former Australia teammate shouldn't face any time on the sidelines for the offence.

"What do you want him to do?" Lewis said.

"He's one of the best defensive fullbacks in the game and you have to stop a try and put your body on the line.

"If someone was to miss a game for something like that, I don't know what our game would be coming to. It's a contact sport.

"I don't think there was anything in it to be honest. If there's anyone I want see play on grand final day, it's Billy Slater."

Lewis and Slater remain close from their time together in Kangaroos camps, and both came into Friday's game with the potential of it being their last if their team lost given their impending retirements.

Slater said after the match he wasn't concerned that he would be charged over the tackle.

"I wasn't worried at the time," Slater said, without having seen a replay.

"When it was a penalty I thought what was the penalty for, but then I realised I got my body in an awkward position.

"It's pretty hard to make a conventional tackle when you're going across at top speed trying to save a try like that ... It was just a collision."

He was also backed by coach Craig Bellamy, who hadn't seen replays when quizzed after the match.

"I didn't think straight away that I'm worried about that," Bellamy said.

"I didn't think there was too much in it from that."

"But having said that I haven't suffered it closely."

If Slater was to be charged, he would follow in the footsteps of captain Cameron Smith who missed the 2008 grand final due to a suspension.

Former South Sydney hooker Issac Luke is the last big name to be ruled out of a grand final at the judiciary after being charged with a dangerous throw in 2014.

The retiring Storm star could face suspension for this hit on Sosaia Feki. Source: SKY

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'See what happens' - Storm skipper Cameron Smith could retire after NRL Grand Final

Cameron Smith has hinted he would consider retiring alongside teammate Billy Slater if Melbourne win next week's NRL grand final.

In a puzzling epilogue to Melbourne's 22-6 preliminary final win over Cronulla, the rugby league Immortal-in-waiting admitted retirement wasn't out of the question with a fifth grand final win next Sunday.

Quizzed on whether he was serious about his stance Smith said he still intended on playing on in 2019 but wouldn't rule out changing his mind.

"I don't know, if we were to win it. If we were to go and play well next week, I don't know. You'd consider it," Smith said when asked if there would be a temptation to retire with Slater.

"Maybe. I don't know.

"I don't have a contract for next year yet ... We'll just get through the week first and see what happens."

"Players finish up all the time and new players come in and you start writing about them.

"I've got all intention of going around next year, you guys posed the question to me. If we were to win would you consider it?

"I don't know, we win first and we'll see what happens. At this stage I want to play on.

"Does that clear it up for you? Clear as mud."

The comments come after Smith has long indicated he wanted to play next season after his shock decision to retire from representative football just weeks out from State of Origin earlier this year.

Reports also emerged this week he was close to finalising a deal with the Storm for next year that would likely see him become the first game to reach the 400-game mark.

The old firm of Smith and Slater stood tall on Friday night in their last game together at AAMI Park, combining for the try just before halftime which put the game beyond doubt.

"I was a bit nervous about the outcome (of the preliminary final) for Billy," Smith said.

"This week I've been having small moments to myself on the training paddock where I'm doing extras with Bill.

"I've been thinking I would love another chance to have another week on the paddock with him."

Storm skipper Cameron Smith celebrates his drop goal. Source: Getty


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