Matt Dufty is being touted as the ball-playing fullback St George Illawarra Dragons have lacked since the days of Darius Boyd, and new halfback Ben Hunt believes he can develop a similar relationship with him to the one he enjoyed with the Brisbane Broncos skipper.
Dufty is set to replace Josh Dugan in the Dragons No.1 jersey after starring in Saturday night’s 24-18 defeat of Super League club Hull FC at ANZ Stadium, but he is a different type of fullback to his predecessor.
Whereas Dugan’s strength is his hard running from the back, especially when returning a kick, Dufty plays like a second five-eighth and can beat defences or create space for team-mates with his acceleration.
The 22-year-old showed his speed as he ran more than 200 metres in 68 minutes and made two line breaks in the match against Hull to all but cement the Dragons No.1 jersey made vacant by Dugan's move to the Cronulla Sharks.
“I just wanted to come in and really attack this year and kind of make that spot my own, so that is what I tried to do,” Dufty said.
“I set up a good opportunity but I have still got next week to go [in the Charity Shield] and it is up to Mary [coach Paul McGregor] what he wants to do for round one and moving forward.
“Every game I get out there I am growing and I feel more comfortable, so hopefully this year I can keep [the jersey] and make it my own.”
Dufty made seven NRL appearances last season but the Hull match was the first time he had played with Hunt after the Test star joined the Dragons from the Broncos.
The pair combined regularly on the right side of the Dragons attack and both said they felt comfortable playing together.
“Me and Benny get on well and we have a good combination there, so it is forming nicely,” Dufty said.
“He is a pretty easy half to play off, he has got great skills and is a great passer so he has fitted in perfectly.”
Hunt, who played 72 minutes in his first appearance for the Dragons, said he had enjoyed playing with Dufty.
“He is a good little player, if you give him the ball with just a tiny bit of room out the back he is going to make it into a lot of room,” Hunt said.
“He has got a lot of speed, [he] is really electric so if we can give the ball to him in space he is going to do some damage.”
Asked about comparisons between Dufty and Boyd’s style of play, Hunt said having a ball playing fullback would boost the Dragons attack.
“It is a massive bonus when you have got such quality out the back on your plays and moving around,” he said. “You have just got to know when to get them the ball and they can do the rest.”
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Meanwhile, Hunt said he was pleased to get his first game with the new club out of the way but vowed to get more involved next weekend against South Sydney Rabbitohs at Mudgee.
“I started a bit slow I think, I felt my way into the game and going forward I need to be a bit different to that,” he said.
“I need to inject myself into the game straight away. I am the halfback here and that is what they expect from me. I need to start getting my hands on the ball earlier.”
McGregor said forwards Tyson Frizell and Jack De Belin were expected to play next Saturday night against the Rabbitohs after sitting out the Hull match.
Dragons 24 - 18 Hull FC