Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett says there was “never any question” Matt Dufty would retain his spot at fullback this weekend despite his nightmare performance against the Penrith Panthers.
Dufty had a tough night at the office against the reigning premiers on Sunday.
He struggled to contain Nathan Cleary’s kicking game, making a game-high four handling errors.
While his opposite number Dylan Edwards ran for 220 metres, Dufty managed just 46 and never looked a threat when the Bulldogs were attacking Penrith’s line.
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Staring down the possibility of a 1-5 start to the season, the Bulldogs can ill-afford another sloppy performance from a player in the spine.
But while Barrett has played three different halves combinations across the first five rounds of the season he says he never considered making a change at fullback for Friday’s match with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“‘Duff’ was disappointed (with his performance) but we all have those days. He’s back in the team this week, there was never any question about that,” Barrett said.
“The good thing about these short turnarounds is that you get out and you get a chance to rectify it this weekend. He’s excited to play.”
Kyle Flanagan’s kicking game produced a try against the Panthers and the 23-year-old has been rewarded with another start this weekend.
Barrett has previously stopped short of guaranteeing Flanagan a long-term spot in the starting 17 but said he was impressed by the halfback’s efforts in his first game of the season.
“I thought Kyle was good last week. He’ll get a lot of confidence out of that,” he said.
“It’s certainly not all on Kyle, we need all our spine to be functioning well. The more times they play together, the better they’re going to be.
“I thought it was a good start from Kyle last week.”
The Rabbitohs are preparing for approximately eight weeks without superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell, who injured a hamstring tendon against the Dragons last weekend.
Barrett said the Bulldogs couldn’t afford to become distracted by Mitchell’s absence, insisting replacement fullback Blake Taaffe would still throw plenty at his side.
“We all know how good a player Latrell is but young Taaffe is a good little player as well so we certainly won’t underestimate him,” said Barrett.
Barrett said his side needed to improve its completion rate against the Bunnies on Good Friday.
“We put ourselves under way too much pressure,” he said.
“You can’t turn the ball over in the positions that we did. The more good ball opportunities we get, the better we are across the field, and the better the whole team is going to get.”