Before Warrington Wolves took on Catalans Dragons in a high intensity top of the table clash, Phil Clarke raised a question about their star fullback Matt Dufty who arrived from the NRL last season.
“I’m not sure Matt Dufty is the kind of player who can lead a side to a Grand Final,” Clarke questioned of the number one who has been electric in 2023.
“If you look at the teams who have made the Grand Final and won it, last year was St Helens with Jack Welsby at full-back,” Clarke added even though Welsby didn’t start the Grand Final at fullback with injuries forcing him into the halves with Jon Bennison and Will Hopoate sharing the fullback role.
Clarke continued: “Personally, I think you need a player who can play out the back and I am not yet convinced that he has that ability.
“But he may develop that over the course of the year. They could also still do it without a play-making full-back, I accept that. But I am not convinced.”
It was as if Dufty heard Clarke coming up with a brilliant assist for Josh Thewlis.
At halftime, Clarke then joked: “I am just waiting to be delivered a knife and fork so I can eat my words.”
However, Clarke was still not convinced: “That’s the first time I have seen it, it is different doing it across the course of a season.”
Then, last week ahead of Warrington’s defeat to Wigan, Clarke doubled down on his belief with an astonishing statistic:
“When I made that comment Warrington had scored 40 tries at that point and only one of the 40 tries had been scored from a pass from Matt Dufty.
“I don’t deny that he is a fantastic runner of the ball and his support play is arguably better than any fullback.
“If Warrington make a break, he is invariably there.
“But I wasn’t sure and I am still not sure about him after just one try. They have scored just two tries from his passes that he has created for his teammates.”
Last night, in another Warrington defeat, Dufty showed his class with a superb pass to create Matty Russell’s try in the corner and Jon Wilkin had a sneaky jab at Clarke’s comments saying:
“That’s a fullback who can’t pass apparently but that is a superb pass, it is a gorgeous pass to find Russell and it is a fantastic finish from Russell.”
Jamie Jones-Buchanan added:
“Get the ball into Matt Dufty’s hands and he can produce magic like this pass.”
However, it wasn’t all good for Dufty as he was fooled by a Jon Bennison dummy for Saints’ fourth try of the night:
“Look at Jon Bennison on the wing and he smoked the star fullback Matt Dufty for that lovely try,” Buchanan said.
“Matt Dufty has gone for a taxi there, he won’t be happy with that.”