On Sunday, for the first time in 2018, the St George Illawarra Dragons were comprehensively beaten.
The 24-10 loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs was plagued by a 66 percent completion rate – their lowest of the season.
What prompted such a sloppy performance? Playing ‘catch up’ footy.
That was the summary Dragons’ fullback Matt Dufty gave to The Mudgee Guardian on Wednesday and spoke about the importance of returning to simple rugby league ahead of Sunday’s clash against the Raiders.
“We went away from our game-plan on Sunday and that’s really what cost us in the end,” Dufty said.
“We tried to play too much catch-up footy out there. If we stick to our structures, we win games so that will be a conscious effort for us this weekend.
“The boys are still in high spirits.”
In addition to structural improvements, the Dragons will have to monitor Canberra’s forward pack – a group that’s undoubtedly been circled by every NRL coach so far in 2018.
“They’re in good form and they have a massive pack so it will be a good challenge for us up front,” he said.
“If we can win that forwards battle we’ll go a long way to winning the game.”
In round 20 last year, Dufty bursted onto the scene as a 21-year-old, scoring a try in his debut outing against the Manly Sea Eagles.
Since then, the Hurstville product has gone from strength to strength but is still fine tuning his game on a week-to-week basis.
“I’ve been working on my defence a lot in the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“I’m still trying to get involved in a few more tackles here and there.
“My combination with Gaz (Widdop) and Benny Hunt is something we’re still working on and will help us win games later in the year.”
Something that’s been a challenge for the Dragons in recent years is finishing the season as well as they started it.
2017’s campaign came to an end in round 26 after the Red V won six of its first seven games and sat inside the top eight for the vast majority of the season.
Although Dufty’s only been a regular first grader since that round 20 clash with Manly, he’s already looking for ways to maintain high levels of play until September.
“It’s concentration for us and keeping that excitement for every game,” he said.
“When you start the season everyone’s excited but it’s that middle part of the year when Origin’s on where we need to make an effort to get pumped up and play our best footy.”
St George’s bid to stay on top of the NRL ladder starts on Sunday when the Canberra Raiders come to Mudgee for a 2pm kick-off at Glen Willow Sporting Complex.