Last updated 08:09, April 17 2018
Matt Dufty will face the team he almost signed with this Friday when the Dragons play the Warriors.
It was a stroke of good fortune two years ago which saved the Dragons from losing a restless heir to their No.1 throne – and now Matt Dufty has revealed how serious the Warriors were about poaching one of the NRL's most exciting young guns.
On the eve of an unlikely top-of-the-table clash with the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night, the jet-heeled Dufty has told of how unsure he was about his standing at St George Illawarra as an injured and off-contract under 20s star that he mulled a move across the Tasman.
And instead of potentially coming back to haunt the Dragons in the match of the round at Mt Smart Stadium, Dufty has been a revelation for the unbeaten table-topping Red V, who have surged into premiership favouritism as they chase a seventh straight win to start the season.
"It was a couple of years ago and I was coming off an injury," Dufty said. "I was off contract at the Dragons and they hadn't talked to me. My manager said we'll talk around and the Warriors showed a lot of interest. I thought it was a realistic thing, but Mary [Paul McGregor] and Benny Hornby came up to me and said, 'there's no way we're letting you go'. It's probably the best thing that has happened.
"I was a bit worried and I didn't know if the Dragons wanted me or not. I was still in my 20s and your career is definitely not set in stone then. I didn't know what to think, but it obviously all worked out in the end."
I thought it was a realistic thing, but Mary [McGregor] and Benny Hornby came up to me and said, 'there's no way we're letting you go'
Josh Dugan's exit to the Sharks has paved the way for Dragons junior Dufty, 22, to trail only Warriors speedster David Fusitu'a as the NRL's leading try scorer after just six rounds. But still he is demanding more improvement from his own game.
In his own words, Dufty was "buzzing" after arguably his best NRL performance yet in the Dragons' 20-point romp over the Sharks last Friday night. It precedes a difficult fortnight with a trip to New Zealand followed by the bumper Anzac Day clash against the Roosters.
Asked whether he expected opposition teams to place more focus on him after an impressive start to the year, Dufty said: "I don't know what other teams do video on during the week, but we've got two of the best halves [Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop] in the comp. I reckon doing video on them would be better than doing it on me.
"Coming into pre-season [the halves dynamic] was something everyone was a bit unsure about, but they're firing. Our whole spine is firing. Our whole team is firing. To have Benny and Gaz there managing the team when things go wrong it definitely keeps everyone calm and focused on the job.
"We haven't put a number on [how many games we can go unbeaten], but we know if everyone comes out and does their role week to week we'll have a good chance of winning. How many years do you go 6-0 to start the year? The boys are pretty humbled about it. We just get to training and go about our business like we do every week.
"It's not about wins or losses for us – obviously everyone wants to win – but if everyone does their job we know we'll win."
Tyson Frizell and Nene Macdonald are battling illness to start the week, but both are not considered in any doubt for the Warriors clash. The Dragons have won 13 of their last 14 clashes against New Zealand, who will be hoping to bounce back from their only loss this year against the Broncos last week.