Having experienced his first taste of finals football on Sunday afternoon, Matt Dufty is determined to ensure Saturday night’s semi-final isn’t his last in 2018.
Dufty was back to his best in St George Illawarra’s 48-18 win over the Broncos, but he recognises the challenges don’t get any easier.
After playing in front of 47,296 fans on Sunday, Dufty is looking forward to facing the Rabbitohs in front of an expected crowd of 50,000.
“It was an experience I won’t forget,” Dufty said. “50,000 people at Suncorp, it’s what you dream of when you’re growing up wanting to play footy.
“We knew finals footy, after watching the Souths and Melbourne game, was going to be pretty intense, and we had to show how badly we wanted it. I think we did that.
“Souths are a tough team though, we’ve played them twice this year and we split that series one each. It’ll be a good game, it should be a great atmosphere, it’s a derby and probably one of the oldest rivalries in the NRL, which makes it more special.”
Dufty delivered his best performance in weeks, scoring a try and playing a key role in another as he returned to form at the most important time of the season.
The 22-year-old concedes his first full NRL season has been more draining than he could have anticipated, with his performances starting to dip as the fatigue mounted.
Dufty’s struggles were made worse by the fact his team’s performance on the field had dropped off a cliff, with the once-dominant forward pack struggling to provide a platform for the backs.
The team’s downhill slide seemingly came to a head after the round 24 38-0 loss to the Bulldogs when reports of a dressing room blow up emerged. Dufty, however, downplayed the incident.
“What happened with me and James, I think there was a bit of GST on that story. I wasn’t on my phone, I was sitting in the ice bath with Nene and he told me a joke and James was in the toilet, it was just wrong place, wrong time.
“If anyone knows me and James, we had breakfast the next day and were on the phone that night, it wasn’t anything too serious. Stuff like that happens all the time, he’s definitely someone I respect and he’s one of my good mates.”
The incident came after Dufty had been moved to the bench, however he revealed it was his desire for a break that forced the change.
“I actually went and spoke to Mary about how I wasn’t feeling myself, I was fatigued mentally and physically. It was a long season and I just needed a rest.
“He said I don’t have to play at all or I can play on the bench, gave me the option and I played on the bench.
“He gave me two days off the next week to freshen up, because that’s what I needed. To have a coach like that who is understanding and has been through it, playing first grade, is great.”
“I came out against the Knights and on Sunday with a point to prove, not just to him but for the rest of the squad that they can keep their trust in me.”
Now he’s had that break, Dufty is ready to fire on Saturday night.