When recent reports mentioned that the St George Illawarra Dragons were looking to possibly shop around their fullback Matt Dufty, I was shocked.
The fact that the club have not come out and immediately rubbished such reports have me literally scratching my head in disbelief.
How in the world could the Dragons, having moved on international and Origin regular Josh Dugan to accommodate the development of Dufty, be looking to move on their first-choice fullback?
Yes, towards the end of the season there were times that Dufty had off games. The kid is 22 years of age and in his first full year of NRL action.
The Dragons’ brass must have short memories, having already forgotten the blistering start to the 2018 season produced by their new number one.
Dufty, much like the entire club, suffered during the Origin period and never totally re-found his form after, but there was a genuine three-week period where Dufty was the literal only route of attach for a struggling and out of ideas Red V.
Ben Hunt had lost confidence and Gareth Widdop had lost the early season polish. The Dragons’ pack were not chewing up and spitting out opposition forwards like in the early rounds. The outside backs, try as they might, just weren’t bending the defensive line so often.
The Dragons’ game-plan legitimately looked a case of ruck it up for four, throw it out back to see if Dufty can create something out of nothing, then kick deep. Aaaaaand … Repeat!
The supposed reason for the shopping around of the 5ft10 whippet is his supposed laziness off the ball.
The 22 year-old, in his first full season at top grade, who is still learning the game.
Tough call if true!
Imagine if the Sharks had walked Valentine Holmes after his first stint at fullback?
Holmes, for all his try-scoring heroics on the wing in the 2016 Premiership winning campaign, struggled to adapt to the role of fullback. He stared in the role in the lower grades and the Sharks took steps to improve his confidence.
Fast forward and Holmes is one of the top three of four number one fullbacks in the game.
Dufty has the speed of Holmes and is probably a little more advanced in terms of ball-playing skills at the same point of their careers.
The only difference between the two is that Holmes has an easy 10 kilos on the much slighter Dufty. Otherwise, they’re not exactly a world apart in terms of skills set.
For the Dragons to even be considering shopping this kid around is pure madness.
Talk is they’re looking to switch Dufty out to bring in Jarryd Hayne. The thinking is that Hayne can fill the number one role under Jai Field is ready to take the reigns.
I’m a big fan of Field. If the Dragons want speed, they have it in spades with young Field. He is a slightly larger build than Dufty but hasn’t yet developed the skill set of Dufty.
He might. You probably could go so far as to say he will, but Dufty is hardly a player I’d be looking to move on.
If Holmes, as expected, signs for the Cowboys, I’d happily drive and pick Dufty up and bring him into the Shire.
If the Dragons’ long-term view is to move Field to fullback, fair enough, but Dufty is a player, who by that stage, would be well suited for a shift to the centres.
There’s even a chance, given his footwork and ability to move the ball quickly, that he’ll end up in the halves one day.
Whether or not he shifts or stays at fullback, I really don’t see being ‘lazy off the ball’ as being a deal breaker considering his talents.
Another off-season working with international halves will surely help remedy that.
If I were a Dragons fan I’d certainly be hanging onto hope that reports are untrue and that Dufty is given another season, at least, to prove his worth.
For mine, given his talent, I simply can’t believe the Dragons would even entertain the idea of shopping him around.
If it’s true though, let me know when I can pick him up and bring him back to the Shire.
What a talent.