He’s been tearing defensive lines apart all season, just ask the Sharks after his three clean breaks last Friday, and Matt Dufty’s incredible start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Warriors.
Leading into Friday’s top-of-the-table clash in Auckland between the Warriors and the St George Illawarra, Stephen Kearney has identified the fleet-footed fullback as the player his side is most focused on trying to shut down.
The 22-year-old was at his electrifying best in the 40-20 win over the Sharks, scoring two tries and leaving defenders swiping at thin air on is way to the line.
So the Warriors coach said a priority for the hosts this week was simply to “keep the ball away from him”.
“They’re putting real pressure on opposition sides with the way they attack and their spine in particular with young Dufty there, they are probably the form spine of the competition. We are going to be up against it on Friday that’s for sure,” he said.
“We’ll try and keep the ball away from him (Dufty) for starters. We have all seen what he is capable of and we just have to make sure that when he does carry the footy everyone is alert because while he might catch the ball on one side of the field, he’s on the other side of the park very quickly.
“The guys are aware of him but in saying that we know if we play our best brand of footy we give ourselves every chance of coming away with another win.”
A lot of limiting Dufty’s involvement will fall on the shoulders of the Warriors’ in-form halves and where they’re able to land the ball with their kicks at the end of sets.
Halfback Shaun Johnson says his side have done “a bit of video work” on Dufty.
“He’s been playing really well. We have a job on our hands defensively that’s for sure,” he said.
“That spine has been playing really well as a unit actually, they’re up the top of the table of a reason, but in saying that we want to come up against the best players and at the moment it’s the Dragons so it’s an awesome challenge.”
After a run of five straight wins to start the year, Johnson said the mood at training and the team’s energy levels remained good despite being humbled by the Brisbane Broncos last Saturday.
“We were a bit off last week, and we have recognised that, and we want to get back to those standards we created in the first month of competition,” he said.
“It’s back to business this week, regardless of the result we come in here with the attitude to get better and we will need to be, come Friday.”