Watch: NRL star Josh Dugan breaks down during emotional press conference - 'I'm an easy target'

An emotional Josh Dugan has broken his silence over his controversial podcast appearance, claiming he's been an easy target for the media since his sacking from Canberra in 2013.

The Cronulla star admits being drained by the negative reporting on his string of off-field incidents, and hit out at the lack of coverage about his good deeds away from the game.

His comments come three weeks after he and teammate Andrew Fifita were handed a warning letter from the Sharks over their expletive-laden appearance on a podcast.

Dugan declined to comment on the fallout, but struggled to hold back tears as he opened up on his frustrations with the media that had been growing since his axing from the Raiders five years ago.

"Everyone's going to have their opinion of me ever since then and it's never going to change. It doesn't matter how much stuff I do outside of footy," Dugan said on Tuesday.

He spoke about how there was little coverage of him raising money for Central Coast teenager Gabe Smith, who lost his battle with brain cancer in July.

"I raised over $15,000 for a young boy not that long ago, I visited him in hospital, he passed away. You don't hear about that. It's only the bad stuff, but I'm used to it," Dugan said.

"It's just draining."

Dugan's comments also come just days after rival NRL star Darius Boyd spoke about his decreasing love for the game due to a perceived increase in criticism.

Ahead of the Sharks' NRL semi-final against Penrith on Friday, the former NSW and Kangaroos representative reckons there aren't enough positive stories being written.

"There's a few, probably one every couple of months," Dugan said.

"But other than that, I feel like negativity sells papers. I understand players are responsible for their actions and I'm responsible for my actions as well, which I have been.

"I've copped a lot of grunt for the things that I've done. I've accepted that and moved on from that. But it also doesn't help when negativity sells papers more than a (feel-good) story would."

The podcast saga was the latest in a turbulent 18 months for the 28-year-old, who was chastised for going on a drinking session during a State of Origin day off last year.

He was also axed for one game by St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor for missing a team bus, and has suffered numerous injuries in his maiden season at the Sharks this year.

Asked if he wanted to change people's perception of him, Dugan said: "I've been trying for the last five years. I've got my own diploma in community social work.

"I've been doing stuff in the community for the last nine months, things you don't hear about."


Cronulla veteran Paul Gallen ruled out of Sharks finals match against Storm

Cronulla will have to win their way to the NRL grand final without captain Paul Gallen after he was ruled out of Friday night's preliminary final against Melbourne with a shoulder injury.

The 37-year-old trained with the Sharks on Thursday and travelled to Melbourne with the team despite tearing tore ligaments in his shoulder during last week's one-point win over Penrith.

The Sharks had planned to give Gallen until midday on Friday to prove his fitness, but after further assessment on Thursday afternoon in Melbourne they made the call to end his race against the clock early.

However, they remain hopeful Gallen could return for next Sunday's grand final if the Sharks qualify.

"If it was a Sunday game I would say he'd be in," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said earlier on Thursday.

"He definitely improved. He loves this club and has been there all his career. He'd do anything to get out on the field and get to another grand final."

Gallen's absence will come as a massive blow to the Sharks, who are already without fellow back-rower Wade Graham.

Gallen and Graham are among the best grinding players in the NRL, the exact style of play which the Sharks have used to beat Melbourne in four of their past five meetings.

The Storm had expected Gallen to play all week, and were still preparing as if that was the case in their final training session on Thursday morning.

Kangaroos forward Aaron Woods is now expected to come into Cronulla's starting side, while 166-game NRL veteran Joseph Paulo will join the Sharks' 17 for his first finals appearance.

Flanagan admitted Gallen would be difficult to replace.

"Gal is our captain and the way he plays is very similar to what we're all about," he said.

"He's tough and ruthless and he's our forward leader. Someone is going to come in and stand up and do the job, and hopefully as good as Gal."

Meanwhile, Josh Dugan is expected to overcome a shoulder injury to be fit to take his place on one wing.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 14: Paul Gallen of the Sharks is tackled during the NRL semi-final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium on September 14, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Paul Gallen of the Sharks is tackled during the NRL semi-final match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium. Source: Getty



Sam Burgess likely to play semi after NRL boss says investigation into sexting scandal won't be rushed

South Sydney star Sam Burgess appears set to play in Saturday's grand final qualifier despite being involved in a sexting scandal that the NRL integrity unit is investigating.

The Rabbitohs were rocked last week by a woman's allegations that a social media account owned by Burgess was used to communicate lewd video of two players to her in May.

There were fears the matter would result in a player being suspended from the rest of this year's finals series, including their preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters.

However, NRL boss Todd Greenberg said while the case is expected to be finalised as soon as possible, he would not be rushed into a decision on potential bans.

"We've made a consistent approach to these things, we've been doing it for a number of years now," Greenberg said on Thursday.

"We'll deal with the details and issues in the investigation, we won't make decisions on the run."

Greenberg refused to address speculation that the woman, who is believed to have initially taken her concerns to the club before going public, is refusing to be interviewed by the integrity unit.

"I'm not going to comment specifically on who's being interviewed and who's not," he said.

"But I will say to you is for us to be able to land at a conclusion and complete the investigation it requires us to try our very hardest to talk to as many people as possible.

"And that's what the integrity unit are doing at the moment."

It is the second off-field incident to embarrass the NRL since the end of the regular season, with Canterbury being fined for their ill-advised Mad Monday behaviour.

Greenberg admitted the damaging headlines have taken the gloss off what has so far been one of the closest finals series in recent memory.

"I'd much prefer to be talking to you today about what will be a full house in Sydney at Allianz Stadium to farewell what's been a great stadium, and a full house in Melbourne," he said.

"But I'm also a realist.

"I understand that, from time to time, issues will come on our table and you will judge us on two things: on the issue itself and how we deal with it.

"We've got a pretty strong track record in rugby league and (as) an integrity unit, to deal with those issues methodically, professionally, appropriately and then hand a decision."

Sam Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Source: Photosport



Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy defends Storm from Sharks 'grubs' attack

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy says Cronulla's verbal attack on his team is laughable, adding further spice to their NRL preliminary final tomorrow night.

The AAMI Park clash is threatening to erupt after barbs were launched this week from the Sharks, prompting Bellamy to defend his team today.

Sharks prop Matt Prior claimed the Storm practised ugly, niggling tactics.

"Most other clubs in the competition would be sitting back laughing about them calling us grubs," Bellamy said.

"They're trying to make out they're holier-than-thou and they're the squeaky- clean Sharks.

"Well, we all know better than that."

No love has been lost between the two sides since Cronulla's drought-breaking 2016 grand final win, with the Sharks dominating Melbourne since.

Bellamy said the Storm needed to put the blinkers on and focus on playing their own game.

"Whatever that record is we haven't had the best of it but the games have always been close," he said.

Craig Bellamy coach of the Melbourne Storm. Source: Photosport

"We haven't changed things too much, some of our starts have been pretty poor when we've played them but we need to stick to what works for us and stick to the plan."

The Storm were preparing for Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen to play in the grand final qualifier despite a serious shoulder injury.

Gallen's inclusion will set the scene for another round with Storm centre Will Chambers, who was suspended for a grapple tackle on the Sharks forward earlier in the season.

Chambers hasn't played for the past month due to a three-match ban with his Storm coach saying he wanted controlled aggression from the Test and State of Origin centre.

"He's been training hard so hopefully he will be OK," Bellamy said.

"He's played a lot of big games, it's not like he's a 21-year-old coming in.

"Hopefully he's learnt from a couple of games this year when he's been suspended.

"We don't need that from him.

"We need him to go and get his job done and be aware when it's the right time to do certain things and when it's the wrong time."

Billy Slater. Vodafone Warriors v Melbourne Storm, NRL Rugby League round 19, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. 22 July 2018. Copyright Image: Renee McKay /
The Storm celebrate in their 12-6 win over the Warriors. Source: Photosport


'We went away from game plan' - Warriors women eager to bounce back in must win Broncos match

The Warriors women face a tough task ahead of them tomorrow night, as they come up against premiership leaders the Brisbane Broncos in Melbourne in a must win match to keep their finals hopes alive.

Warriors hooker Krystal Rota says her team have learned from their Dragons 22-10 loss in Sydney last week and that her side need to return to what worked for them in their round one win over the Roosters.

"I just think we went away from game plan," said Rota.

"The first game we stuck to our game plan and defensive structures, when we played the Dragons we went away from that and obviously it didn't work for us."

The Warriors have to win tomorrow night's game by a big margin, to secure themselves a spot in next week's grand final.

Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack. Roosters v Warriors, NRL Holden Women's Premiership.  ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia. 8th Sept 2018. Copyright Photo: David Neilson /
Warriors women player Onjeurlina Leiataua on attack against the Sydney Roosters. Source: Photosport

The Brisbane Broncos women are undefeated in the competition and are guaranteed a spot in the final.

Warriors hooker Krystal Rota believes her side will learn from their 22-10 loss to the Dragons as they prepare for Brisbane tomorrow night in Melbourne. Source: Te Karere