St George Illawarra star Matt Dufty is the NRL’s form fullback, but six weeks ago he feared his career could be over if he didn’t perform.
Duffy’s career was at a crossroads prior to the Dragons’ round 5 clash against the Sharks on a sunny Sunday in mid-June.
The previous week in round 4, the Penshurst junior was dropped after a shocking loss to the Warriors in the return from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Dufty also lost his No.1 jumper to Zac Lomax in round one after the Dragons deemed Lomax to be the club’s long-term fullback.
This prompted rumours that he could leave the Red V, but these suggestions were squashed when he starred against Cronulla starting at fullback with a try.
Six weeks on, Dufty is the NRL‘s standout No.1 ahead of Saturday’s rematch against the Sharks, and he has that Dragons’ round 5 win to thank for his revival.
“That is when I really sat back and thought, ‘this is my chance’,” Dufty said.
“There might not be another one if I stuff this one up and I had nothing to lose and I just wanted to play footy.
“It really hit home for me that this could be where my career starts and finishes.”
Dufty says he wouldn’t be where he is now without the challenges he experienced when his star-studded form from 2018 went missing.
He dominated that season with 13 tries as the Dragons won 15 games to finish in seventh position.
“Back in ‘18 when I probably had my best year I was playing with confidence and just playing footy,” he said.
“I wasn’t thinking about if I play bad here, I might not play next week.
“All the coaching staff have put their faith in me and I’m trying to repay them back for keeping me in that No.1 spot.
“I’m doing a pretty good job at the moment, but there is still a lot of improvement and growth for me.”
Dufty believes the feeling of failing coach Paul McGregor has also fuelled St George Illawarra’s run of form.
Since the Dragons’ board publicly backed McGregor as the club’s coach in the lead up to round 5, the Red V have won four of their past six games.
“That is when all the boys got around and said it is not on Mary anymore,” Dufty said.
“It was never on Mary, it is on us now and we need to start performing and pick up that embarrassment of where we were at the start of the year.
“Our roster has a lot of good players in our team and we were underperforming.
“It really hit home for our whole team. We knew we were a lot better and had a lot more to give.
“It just took a couple of weeks for us to click and finally have the whole team’s confidence back.”
Dufty will suit up in the away sheds at Kogarah Oval on Saturday against Cronulla for the first time since his under 10s grand final with Penshurst.
With the Sharks the home team, the Dragons have been relegated to the rival’s rooms.