Josh Dugan wants to tend the rabbits.

Josh Dugan is a simple man. Strong of stature and simple of mind, much like the character Lennie in Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. He possesses more strength and physical power than the average man, along with the mid of a child.

Like Lennie, Josh just wanted to play with animals. This is how the NRL veteran found himself near Bathurst while he was supposed to stay within five kilometres of his home in southern Sydney. He was there to tend to animals. His COVID breach has earned him yet another nomination for The Frownlow Medal and could have ended his career.

The Frownlow Medal celebrates the off-field achievements of the modern-day footballer and draws attention to the status of footballers as role models to young Australians. It covers Australia’s four major football codes; the National Rugby League (NRL), Australian Football League (AFL), the A-League (Football) and Rugby Union’s Super Rugby competition. NRL player Shaun Kenny-Dowall won the inaugural medal in 2015, while AFL player Elijah Taylor is the most recent recipient.

Dugan and a friend were stopped by police near Lithgow recently, miles from their homes in Gymea and Alexandria. Both men were ordered to return home immediately, which meant they should have headed east. Instead, they headed west and were found just 40 minutes later, in Yetholme, near Bathurst, which is about 150km from Sydney.

When the pair were caught, the former NSW and Australia representative apparently told police he was out bush to ‘feed animals’. In Steinbeck’s famous novel, simple-minded Lennie is kept in line by his friend George with the promise that he can tend the rabbits on the farm the pair dream of buying. Alas, George ends up shooting Lennie at the end of the novel, and Lennie never gets to tend to the rabbits. Poor Josh also missed out on feeding animals in the Central West, and was instead handed a fine of $10,000, and possibly more punishment. When the NRL and police investigations are complete, his NRL could be dead. He was only in Sydney because the Sharks didn’t select him in the playing squad which is in the COVID bubble in Queensland.

This is Dugan’s second Frownlow nomination in 2021, and follows his nomination in 2016. He was fined $25,000 in June for…breaching COVID protocols. On this occasion, he dined at a restaurant in Sydney while all NRL players were ordered not to attend hospitality venues such as pubs and clubs.

If Dugan leaves the Sharks at the end of 2021, will he be offered the chance to play with rabbits, or any other animals which act as mascots for NRL teams?

Image: NuNa

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