Zac Lomax has been taking a notepad to training as he prepares to spend a full pre-season focusing on playing fullback but Matt Dufty has vowed to stay and fight to regain the St George Illawarra No.1 jersey in 2020.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor has opted to give Lomax first shot in his preferred position of fullback next season ahead of Dufty and rookie Tristan Sailor after the shifting the 20-year-old star between centre, wing and the interchange in all but one of his previous 17 NRL appearances.
The decision enables Lomax to spend the summer training in the one position and leaves Dufty fighting for his future after being told that the Dragons would release him at the end of last season if he wanted to join another club.
After playing all 26 matches in 2018, Dufty found himself on the outer and only started at fullback while Gareth Widdop was sidelined by injury before being overlooked for selection for the last six rounds of the season.
“It’s Mary’s decision and I have got a lot to prove so I have just got to work hard and get that spot back,” Dufty said.
“The two years before last season I was playing great footy, I was in good form and just loving life. I don’t want to be feeling like I did last year and that’s one of the reasons it is good to be starting a new season.
“The club told me I could look elsewhere but they are definitely not forcing me and if something comes up I will think about it but at the moment my first priority is with the Dragons, and I still feel like I have got something to prove here and in the NRL.”
While they are rivals for the No.1 jersey, Dufty and Lomax are friends and the pair are helping each other at training.
Lomax grew up playing fullback and played the position for St George Illawarra’s under 20s team before making his NRL debut as an 18-year-old in 2018 but the Junior Kangaroos representative admits he has a lot to learn.
The Temora junior said McGregor and assistant coach Dean Young had been showing him video of rival playmakers to help with his positioning in defence and he has been taking a notepad to the sessions.
“It’s going to be a pre-season of learning lots, being a sponge and trying to soak up as much as I can and bringing my notepad,” Lomax said.
“Since I first came to grade fullback has always been the positon that I enjoyed the most or wanted to play the most and it has been a good transition for me into grade to play in different positions.
“I just had to do what was best for the team so I was learning different positions and I got to see the game from different perspective each week but I’d love to be able to cement a position down and focus on that one position week in and week out.”
Dufty grew up playing in the halves but is now established as a fullback and welcomed the competition with Lomax and Sailor.
“We have been training together and tipping each other up about things we have been doing wrong or doing right,” he said. “It’s a good culture to have a friendly rivalry, it makes us all work harder for that spot and it’s good to have that depth.
“I think I have just got to work hard and do those one percenters - catching balls on the full, being in there when there is a break made and just being involved for 80 minutes. If I do that I give myself every opportunity to get that spot back.
“It starts with training in the pre-season. I have got to work hard and just prove to everyone that I am the right man for the job.”