New St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin told Matt Dufty to give up his ball-playing role and run – and the tactic paid dividends in Friday's rout of Manly at WIN Stadium.
The 25-year-old fullback, who has now scored three tries in as many games this season, was at his electrifying best as he helped consign the Sea Eagles to their worst start to a season for almost a decade.
Star centre Zac Lomax also scored two tries as he put his name in the St George Illawarra record books by scoring 22 points to equal Amos Roberts, Jamie Soward and Gareth Widdop for the most points in a match by a Dragons player.
Dufty also scored two tries to take his record to 13 tries in 14 matches at WIN Stadium as the Dragons romped to their second consecutive victory.
Match: Dragons v Sea Eagles
Round 3 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
"The way Hook wanted me to play is a lot different to last year," Dufty said.
"I was more of a ball player and setting up outside people but he wants me to be more of a ball runner.
"The way the game is going, once those middles get tired there is plenty of space there and he wants me to attack in those spaces with speed and footwork.
"It has taken a bit to get used to because I love ball playing but it is obviously working."
Corey Norman had a hand in three of St George Illawarra’s six tries as the Dragons exposed Manly’s right-edge defence and Dufty said the pair were benefitting from the service of hooker Andrew McCullough.
Air Lomax takes flight
"I think having Macca there for Benny is massive, they have played a lot of footy together and you can just tell that Benny is a lot more comfortable," Dufty said.
"Me and Benny have played together since 2018 and Normy has come back and is playing really well, as well.
"We have simplified it and if you watch us we are all real close together so if there is a break one of us is always there. I think the way that the game is going I think it is going to suit the way we play."
Griffin praised his spine of Dufty, Norman, Hunt and McCullough.
"Corey was brilliant. He's a really good player," Griffin said.
"Obviously he hasn't been happy with what we've been doing for the last period of his career and he needs to play well. At the club we have guys like him and Ben Hunt who need to play well."
Dragons start to hit top gear as Ramsey crosses
Lomax scored the first try in just the ninth minute after leaping above Sea Eagles fullback Dylan Walker for a left-footed bomb from Norman as the Dragons capitalised on the Sea Eagles' errors.
St George Illawarra fans in the 9253 crowd were on their feet in anticipation of a second try soon after when Norman broke into the clear with Dufty looming on his inside but the pass went behind him.
Dufty got his first try in the 28th minute after Norman put left edge second-rower Tariq Sims through a gap and the former NSW Origin forward sent him racing for the try-line.
Norman steers Dufty through a hole near the ruck
Cody Ramsey scored in the 33rd minute after a Hunt pass put centre Jack Bird in a one-on-one situation with Moses Suli and he offloaded to put the rookie winger over.
The Sea Eagles reduced the halftime deficit to 18-6 after Dufty fumbled a Kieran Foran grubber and Garrick swooped to score in the 37th minute but Manly fans had little else to cheer.
Lomax kicked a 55th-minute penalty goal and then put the result beyond doubt when he scored his second try 15 minutes later after Garrick fumbled a Hunt grubber.
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