'Every forward's nightmare': Dufty ready for RTS showdown
Matt Dufty was last week instructed to "out-work" James Tedesco and this weekend the St George Illawarra fullback will be seeking to match the player he rates as the most difficult to contain when the Dragons attempt to maintain their place in the top four against Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s Warrriors.
Dufty, who was sounded out by the Warriors as an injury replacement for Tuivasa-Sheck in 2016, described the star fullback as a "forward's nightmare" and urged St George Illawarra's halves Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt to kick away from him in Saturday's match at WIN Stadium.
"Roger is world class, he probably has the best feet in the game, that's for sure," Dufty said.
"He is the hardest to contain, you don't know which way he is going to go. He can step off both feet, he can go left, right, straight.
"It will be a big challenge with kick returns this week. I think he is every forward's nightmare returning the ball."
In his first full NRL season, Dufty has shown why the Warriors offered to fly him to Auckland for a tour two years ago after Tuivasa-Sheck ruptured his ACL as statistics for the pair compare favourably.
Dufty is ranked second to Newcastle's teenage sensation Kalyn Ponga (901.7m) for kick returns this season, with 901.5 metres from runs after fielding the ball near his line.
Tuivasa-Sheck averages 50.92 metres from kick returns in his 17 matches for the Warriors compared to 47.48 by Dufty, who has played all 19 games for St George Illawarra.
Overall, Tuivasa-Sheck averages 171.2 metres with the ball per game, while Dufty runs 142.15 metres per game.
The Dragons rookie is also fourth in the NRL for line breaks with 15 this season, compared to eight by Tuivasa-Sheck, and is ninth for tackle breaks (77), although the Warriors captain averages 4.76 per match.
Another area where Dufty out ranks Tuivasa-Sheck is support runs, with the St George Illawarra fullback eighth overall and averaging 19.26 support runs per game, compared to 13.64 for his Warriors counterpart.
Dufty is also sixth on the NRL's tryscoring list with 11 this season and should have had his 12th last weekend against the Roosters when he made a long-range break from near the Dragons' end of the field.
"I looked at the video and I would have made it if I just put my head down," the 22-year-old speedster said.
"I didn't know there were forwards all around me."
Before the match, St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor had given him just one instruction – try to "out-work" Tedesco, the NSW fullback.
"That is all he said to me," Dufty revealed.
"He usually he comes up with a whole sheet of things for me to do. Obviously that is a pretty big task. He is one of the best support players, one of the best ball-runners, one of the best everything … and he proved that again this year in State of Origin.
"He probably wasn't in the best form earlier in the year but he came out and proved everyone wrong because he is on fire at the moment."
Tedesco finished the game with two tries, a try assist and four tackle breaks, while running 220 metres with the ball, including 55 metres from kick returns.
In comparison, Dufty made one line-break and one tackle break, while he ran 192 metres and made 82 metres carrying the ball back from kicks.
After losing 36-18 to the Roosters, St George Illawarra have dropped from third to fourth place but have set themselves the goal of remaining in the top four – a feat they have managed since round 1.
"We take big pride in that," McGregor said.
"This competition is ruthless and from round 1 to round 21 we are the only side that is still in the top four so it is really important that we stay there and that is what our attitude is towards.
"Our vision at the start of the year was about our team first and our purpose was about making the top four. Nothing has changed and we have got a real focus about that tomorrow."