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'This could be where my career starts or finishes': Dufty's six-week revival

Before the then-winless Dragons faced the Sharks in round five, recalled fullback Matt Dufty accepted "this could be where my career starts or finishes".

How things have since changed. St George Illawarra are on the cusp of the top eight as they prepare for the second instalment of the local derby, having claimed four victories including one over Cronulla.

Dufty has scored six tries in the past six games and re-established himself as the team's main attacking threat with his blinding speed.

But only six weeks ago, the 24-year-old believed he was running out of time to prove he was the man to wear the No.1 jersey.

"When they gave me that next shot against Cronulla, that was when I really sat down and thought, 'This is my chance. There might not be another one if I stuff this up'," Dufty said.

Sharks v Dragons - Round 11

"I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to play footy. It was hard this year with the boys not getting selected not being able to play any footy [as Canterbury Cup was cancelled due to COVID-19].

"It really hit home for me: this could be where my career starts or finishes type of thing. I just tried to take it with both hands."

Dufty reflected on the relieving win against the Sharks as the turning point of the season. The board had publicly backed coach Paul McGregor earlier that week.

The halfway mark: Tackle of the year

A formal three-man selection panel of McGregor and assistant coaches Shane Flanagan and Dean Young was introduced, leading to Ben Hunt being moved to hooker and Cameron McInnes to lock.

"Mary's future was decided. All the boys got around it and all the boys said, 'It's not on Mary anymore - it was never on Mary - it's on us now to start performing and start to pick up that embarrassment of where we were at the start of the year'," Dufty said.

Last Sunday's thrilling win over the Bulldogs, in which the Dragons scored three late tries to snatch the result, was proof of their evolution, according to Dufty.

"We were down 18 points against the Warriors [in round three] and we couldn't even score one point," Dufty said.

"I think not getting our heads down and the boys just staying in the fight was the most pleasing thing. Obviously those two [competition] points come the end of the year could be the most important two points we've had all year."

Five-eighth Corey Norman dashed away for the winning try after a Canterbury error and paid homage to ex-Dragons hooker Mark Riddell when he leaned against the fence and clapped his effort.

The celebration earned $5000 for the Men of League Foundation through Sportsbet's Try July promotion.

Try celebrations galore

"We spoke about it a couple of weeks ago and we just told the boys that we need to get around it because it's for a good cause," Norman said. "I thought why not do the Piggy Riddell where he did it [at WIN Stadium]. It was good fun."

The Dragons return to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah on Saturday but Cronulla are the hosts as they're sharing the venue while developments are being made to Shark Park.

"It's actually probably an advantage for us. A couple of weeks ago when we played Manly, the crowd there was awesome," Norman said.

Flanagan is aiming to maintain bragging rights over the Sharks, the team he coached to the 2016 premiership.

"We give it to Flano a lot. You can't mention Cronulla or [his son] Kyle. He's a bit touchy with those two things. Flano's good to have a laugh with, he's got a good sense of humour," Dufty said.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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