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The Rabbitohs were the winners in last year’s Charity Shield, 28-10. This year, they have to be the favourites after the Dragons near full-strength Nines side went down 23-4 to a Souths Nines team which was devoid of most of its stars.
Saints coach Steve Price is already under pressure from Dragons fans following what can only be described as a bitterly disappointing bottom of the table Nines performance.
The key to this match may well be in the forwards with Souths’ giant pack up against the Dragons’ younger and lighter pack. It is a shame we did not see what the Burgess brothers could do at the Nines, but they will certainly provide a stiff test for the Dragons.
The Dragons pack has a lot to learn this year and the Charity Shield will be the start. It will be interesting to see how Trent Merrin goes in his new self-proclaimed role as the team’s enforcer, but he is well aware he still has work to do.
Of perhaps academic interest, if the Dragons forwards are not up to the Rabbitohs standards, will be how the new Dragons halves pairing will compete.
Widdop showed lots for England in the World Cup and Gareth is anticipating a “fiery and physical” match.
If the halves can get the ball to the wingers and particularly Morris or fullback Dugan then there may be some hope for the Dragons.
Sam Williams, formerly with the Raiders, gets his chance at half. Centre Charly Runciman has been surprisingly omitted with Gerard Beale and Dylan Farrell being preferred.
The Nines injury to South’s five-eighth Kearney has thrown Michael Maguire’s plans to start the year with a new-look halves combination into disarray, leaving the Rabbitohs coach on the search for a halves partner for Adam Reynolds which will presumably be on show in this game.
South Sydney’s Dylan Walker showed real attacking skills in the Nines and deserves his place in the side.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has vowed code-hopping superstar Sam Burgess won’t be treated as an outcast in his final year in the NRL and I am expecting Sam to use the Charity Shield to demonstrate he will be in it to win and not to show opposing teams any charity in his remaining games with Souths.
When the Charity Shield is played at WIN Stadium, for the first time in its history on Saturday, it will be the 31st Charity Shield played between the two clubs and the question is will WIN Stadium live up to its name for the home team Dragons?
On paper Souths have it all over the Dragons forwards, but St George look to have the edge in the backs and it may come down to how the new halves combinations for both teams perform.
Now the Souths coach may choose to hold back in the Charity Shield with a view to Souths tough start to the NRL season with the first match of the NRL opening round, the top of the table clash against the Roosters in two weeks, followed a week later by the clash against Manly.
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