Matt Dufty is unfazed about edging his close friend Jai Field out of the St George Illawarra Dragons No.1 jersey, saying: “We both know that eventually we will both play in first grade”.
After being approached by Dragons management in December to extend his contract beyond this year, Dufty appears to have won the battle to start the season at fullback.
However, the 22-year-old knows there are no guarantees and after finalising a new deal until the end of the 2019 season Dufty said he was thriving on his with Field for the position.
“Me and Fieldy are really good mates off the field so it is good to have that competition there, I think that is what you need in a rugby league team,” Dufty said.
“If someone is there pushing you, you are both going to get better and you are always looking over your shoulder so it helps you to play good footy.”
The pair played together in the Dragons under 20s and Illawarra’s NSW Cup teams and have both been identified as future stars of the club’s NRL side.
“We are too good of mates to fight over something like that because we both know how good we both are and we both know that eventually we will both play in first grade,” Dufty said.
Despite starting the last NRL seven games of 2017 at fullback, Dufty said he wasn’t taking the spot for granted and had been focused on off-season training when the club approached him about a new deal.
“They came to me early December but it wasn’t on my mind, so it is something we slowly got done,” he said.
“It is an exciting time at the club and having extended for another year takes the pressure off 2018 so I am very excited to get out there and play.”
With Ben Hunt having joined the club, Dufty will be part of a spine featuring international halves in the former Brisbane Broncos playmaker and captain Gareth Widdop.
“You have got two of the best halves in the world and Cam McGuiness was probably in the top four hookers in the comp so it is definitely exciting playing with a spine like that, plus the forward pack we have got – they’re huge,” he said.
With Widdop starring for England at fullback in the World Cup, Dufty said he would be listening to any advice the Dragons skipper had to offer.
“Gaz talks to me on the field about pretty much everything; what line I should run, not to push the pass all the time and he is just a good leader to have,” Dufty said.
“Obviously at the World Cup he killed it and got man-of-the-match three or four times so he is obviously someone good to have at the club.
“He is a world class player, he got five-eighth of the year last year and you could slot him anywhere and he will do the job.”