Short-term focus for Dragons rookie

HERE AND NOW: He's been touted as the club's long-term No.1 but Dragons rookie Matt Dufty isn't looking past the 2017 season. Picture: Robert Peet

HERE AND NOW: He's been touted as the club's long-term No.1 but Dragons rookie Matt Dufty isn't looking past the 2017 season. Picture: Robert Peet

ST GEORGE Illawarra livewire Matt Dufty doesn’t need to say the words for you to know he’s set his sights on being the Dragons long-term No.`1.

It’s a position the Penshurst RSL junior has long been groomed for coming through the Dragons junior ranks.

His stunning 55 tries in 65 NYC games for the club were at least part of the reason club recruitment chief Ian Millward – whose paid to look to the future  – was keen to see Josh Dugan shift to centre next season.

Dugan has since confirmed he will depart for Cronulla at season’s end, leaving a long-term vacancy at fullback that plenty have already penciled Dufty’s name into.

After a stunning debut against Manly in Wollongong three weeks ago, there are plenty more willing to write it down in ink, none of which is news to the 21-year-old.

“It’s obviously a goal but it’s not up to me,” Dufty said.

“It’s up to Mary [coach Paul McGregor] and the coaching staff next year to decide who fits the bill.

“We’ve got a lot of new players coming in and we’ll see what combinations work well and that sort of thing will be up to Mary.

“Both Fieldy [Jai Field] and Killer [Kurt Mann] have played fullback this year and Killer played a few games there last year so they’ve both got a bit of experience.

“We’ll have to wait and see but I’m definitely trying to put a foot forward towards the end of this year and play the best footy I can. Certainly I’ll be getting in next preseason and working pretty hard.”

For now, he’s just happy living the dream.

“It’s still a dream come true every week being out there with the boys,” Dufty said.

“The longer the season went the less likely it seemed that Mary was going to change the team up because the boys were playing pretty well at the beginning of the year.

“It was getting towards the end of the year and I wasn’t sure if I’d get a game but I just kept trying to play well in NSW Cup. 

“That week everything fell into place for me. There were a couple of injuries and Mary came up and said ‘I’m playing you’ and I was over the moon.

“It’s still pretty crazy when you walk out there and, instead of a couple of hundred fans, there’s 12,000-plus. 

“I used to look around and be able to find my family easily in the crowd but now you’re lucky to see anyone you know. It’s a bit surreal.”

A finals appearance just six games into is top-grade career would cap a stunning rise, but it’s something he’s only given brief thought to with his side locked in a tight top-eight battle.

“It’d be pretty surreal, playing six NRL games and then playing a couple of finals,” Dufty said.

“It would be unreal but right now we’ve just got to focus on finishing off the year and making sure we’re in the finals. That’s the goal we’re all working towards.”

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