St George Illawarra Dragons rookie Matt Dufty targets No.1 spot

Prepared: Dragons emerging talent Matt Dufty.
Prepared: Dragons emerging talent Matt Dufty.

He was the star of St George Illawarra's exciting under-20s side last year, and now Matt Dufty is determined to take his chance in the top grade.

The 21-year-old is in the mix to play fullback for the Dragons' season-opener against Penrith at Jubilee Oval on March 4 after an impressive start to pre-season.

Josh Dugan only recently returned to training after representing Australia at the Four Nations late last year. Although he is the Dragons' incumbent fullback, he played in the centres for NSW and the Kangaroos and started last season wearing the No.3 jersey for the Dragons.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor reverted to Dugan at fullback following some indifferent early-season form and an injury to Kurt Mann, but Dufty, whose try-scoring ability saw him emerge as an exciting prospect in the Holden Cup, gives McGregor another option.

Dufty says he is determined to earn a chance and make sure he takes it.

"It would mean the world to play in round one," he said. "But I think it would mean a lot more if I debuted at home at [Kogarah] in front of home fans and people that would love to see me play.

"[Talk of playing first grade] excites me. But we don't read too much into it. It's really up to Mary [McGregor] and Dugan and none of them have really spoken about it. I've really been the only fullback on the roster at training, which is good for my experience leading the boys around.

"But it's good to have Duges back [and I'm] learning a few tips off him.

"Me and Dugan are different attacking players, so we both bring different strengths in our attack. Defensively, most fullbacks try and defend the same, positionally and vocally out the back. So I don't think too much would change there."

St George Illawarra lost Drew Hutchison to a season-ending knee injury but have strengthened their side with the signings of Paul Vaughan, Nene Macdonald and Cameron McInnes.

The Dragons have featured in the finals only once in the past five seasons and ran 11th last year.

Despite last year's disappointment and the loss of Benji Marshall, Dufty is confident they will be much improved in 2017.

"I'm really impressed with our roster this year," he said. "We have depth everywhere. In the forwards I could name 10 different guys that could start and do the job just as well as the next guy. In our backs there's a lot of depth in our centres and wingers."


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