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Dufty mentoring rookie set to replace him

St George Illawarra rookie Cody Ramsey plans to learn as much as he can from Matt Dufty before the star fullback leaves the club at the end of the season with a view to taking over the role in 2022.

Dragons coach Anthony Griffin has earmarked Ramsey as a long-term fullback after deciding not to offer Dufty a new contract and the 21-year-old is keen to play alongside the man whose No.1 jersey he is set to fill.

After deputising for Dufty while he was sidelined with a shoulder injury, Ramsey returned to the wing for last week’s 52-24 thumping of Brisbane and looked on in admiration as the fullback scored two tries and produced five try assists.

Dufty’s performance has sparked interest from rival clubs, headed by Brisbane and Canberra, and Ramsey said he was looking forward to playing with him again in Monday’s match against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.

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“He is with us for the rest of the year so I am excited to play with him for this whole year and I will just see what goes on next year,” Ramsey said. “Right now, I am just playing wing for my team and whatever happens, happens.”

While he was reluctant to look too far into the future, Ramsey confirmed that fullback was his preferred position and Dufty had been mentoring him.

“I pepper him with questions, so he is probably sick of me,” Ramsey said. “He has taught me a lot, just on where to position myself.

“When I first came in I didn’t even know how to count numbers [in defence] so he has definitely helped me out a lot, which I am very appreciative of."

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With Dufty’s return, centre Gerard Beale making his first NRL appearances of the season against Brisbane and winger Mikaele Ravalawa and second-rower Josh Kerr completing suspensions, Ramsey said the Dragons were getting close to full strength.

Star centre Zac Lomax (broken thumb) and suspended forwards Josh McGuire and Tyrell Fuimaino are due back in two weeks, while NSW Origin second-rower Tariq Sims is expected to be available for the Bulldogs clash.

“It really showed how our depth was over these last couple of weeks, which is a good sign, and now we are getting a few more boys back it is looking good,” Ramsey said.

“It was a big confidence booster for our team to get that win [against Brisbane] and hopefully we can move forward and get a few more wins under our belt.”

“It really showed how our depth was over these last couple of weeks, which is good signs, and now we are getting a few more boys back it is looking good.”

Williame, Beale, Fuimaiono, five-eighth Corey Norman, winger Jordan Pereira, prop Kaide Ellis and back-up hooker Billy Britain are playing for their futures in the Red V following Griffin’s call on Dufty and the decision by Cameron McInnes to sign with Cronulla earlier this year.

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Of the seven remaining Dragons off contract, Norman is the biggest name and the former Queensland Origin representative, who will play his 50th match for St George Illawarra on Monday, believes that a strong finish to the season will enhance his hopes of a new deal.  

"I don't have a contract for next year yet, so I guess I'm looking for a job next year," Norman said. "I'm a pretty kickback guy, I believe what will be will be.

“We're starting to get a few troops back in our squad and if we have a strong finish towards the back-end of the year, footy always looks after itself and I guess we'll start talking then."