A Ben Barba highlights package has played a key role in unleashing Matt Dufty's ball-playing potential, the fullback has revealed.
With the Dragons reshaping their playing style during the coronavirus shutdown, Dufty has emerged as a genuine playmaker within the team's attack.
He produced two brilliant passes that led to tries in Friday's 26-12 loss to the Roosters, the fullback recording five try assists in the last three games.
With current St George Illawarra assistants Shane Flanagan and James Shepherd coaching Barba during their time in Cronulla, Dufty has taken to modelling his play on the premiership winner.
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"I watched his highlights a couple of weeks ago, before the Sharks game," Dufty said. "I watched some of his highlights, his style of play.
"I think I can take a lot out of his game when he was in his Dally M form. It's actually helped me a lot positioning-wise and effort-wise and that's something I'll continue to improve on."
While many outsiders have been surprised by the 24-year-old's recent playmaking abilities, those within the club have not been shocked.
Speaking post-match on Friday night, St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor said Dufty has always possessed the skills to shine as a ball-player, with a combination of hard work on the training paddock and a rejigged attacking structure allowing the fullback to flourish.
"He's always had it there," McGregor said. "He's just been more of a runner and we've been playing more block plays. We're playing a lot flatter at the moment, so it suits him a little bit more.
"The way we're trying to play and aiming to attack suits the way he wants to play.
"His passing game's really come into its own in the last three weeks and he's got confidence from it. He's practicing a lot at training and bringing that into the games."
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Dufty's performances has been his ability to inject himself into play on both sides of the field.
There have been pinpoint cutout passes to Mikaele Ravalawa down the left flank and short balls to a charging Zac Lomax on the right.
Two players that previously battled for the fullback spot, Dufty and Lomax have excelled in their new-found stability.
"That's what I've been working on, giving Friz early ball, giving Zac the ball he likes to get," Dufty said.
"It's building combinations because we haven't played a lot of footy with each other. We're building, it's coming along nicely."
While he's been among the Dragons best of late, Dufty recognises the team has much work to do to challenge for a spot in the eight.
With just two wins from seven games, the side is languishing near the bottom of the ladder.
But after pushing the defending premiers all the way on Friday night, Dufty is confident the team is starting to build towards their best.
"We're growing. Me and Cluney have played a lot of footy together, but me and Cluney, Normy, Hunty and Cam haven't.
"There were a few stages in the game where we were getting our coms wrong and there was a bit of a miscommunication, but we're growing. We'll get back and do some video, see where we went wrong and just try and build from next week."
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