DRAGONS livewire Matt Dufty is poised to fill a role similar to that of Jason Nightingale during the club’s 2009 campaign after re-signing for a further two years.
The 22-year-old’s future had been subject to much conjecture over the off-season, first amid reports he’d been shopped around in effort to bring Jarryd Hayne to the club.
Sexual assault charges cooled the quest for Hayne’s signature but skipper Gareth Widdop’s decision to quit the club at season’s end again threw Dufty's future up in the air.
It saw the Dragons strike a three-year deal with Corey Norman, whose arrival will likely see Widdop spend his final season in Wollongong at fullback.
Where it leaves Dufty has been a topic of much discussion but the flexibility in coach Paul McGregor’s back-line could well see him play a spark-plug role off the bench.
Cam McInnes is tipped to succeed Widdop as captain in 2020 and is unlikely to make any permanent move away from the No. 9, but could make in-game shifts to lock.
It would allow Ben Hunt to spend time at dummy-half, with Dufty used in shorter bursts against tired defensive lines while also providing injury cover.
Nightingale played a similar role in 2009 before the retirement of Wendell Sailor allowed him to claim the position he would make his own for the best part of a decade a year later.
Dufty indicated he’s willing to play any role required of him in announcing his re-signing on Monday.
“I'm very happy about re-signing for another two years,” Dufty said.
“It wasn't a difficult decision. The Dragons is somewhere where I think I could play my best footy and where I wanted to stay.
The Dragons is somewhere where I think I could play my best footy... I feel like a weight has been lifted.Matt Dufty
“I feel like a weight has been lifted. I've had it over my head for a while now and I'm glad the positive discussions I've had with the club have ended this way.
“I'm really excited for this year to come. I'm not sure where I'll play but it's a good headache for Mary [McGregor] to have.
“We have all been playing different positions, trying to get our different combinations sorted and with the strike force we have, it's exciting to see how we all play.”
Recruitment chief Ian Millward said it leaves the club well served after Widdop’s departure, with Dufty still shaping as the club’s long-term No. 1.
"He's a local junior who has gone through our pathway system, and we know he's a person we want here long-term at this club,” Millward said on Monday.
"We have been in deep discussions and negotiating with Matt and his agent since last year. He was aware of our discussions with Corey Norman at all times and he knew where his future lied at our club at all times.
“In regards to what positions everyone plays, that's up to the coach. [The coach] is excited by not only the spine he has in 2019, but also 2020 and 2021."