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It Was Supposed To Be A Trial: Tunks

Tough former Rabbitohs prop Peter Tunks calls it the original "big bash". The Charity Shield, the curtain-raiser for the Rugby League season, was supposed to be a pre-season friendly... It was anything but friendly.

"It's funny looking back now; what happened then and what you can do now. It's a little bit different," smiled Tunks.

Since its inception in 1982 the Rabbitohs and the Dragons have fought for bragging rights in an entertaining pre-season clash that aims to raise funds for charitable causes.

In 33 matches the Rabbitohs have won 12 games and the Dragons 16 with 5 draws taking place. Tunks, who played in the first Charity Shield 35 years ago, declares it's a match that both Clubs want to win.

"It's not really a trial game. After the first game - the first half of the first game was very savage - you were there to prove a point," said Tunks.

"No one was going to lay down and let it be an easy game. It was a thing about pride - no one wanted to lose that first trial game of the season.

"I think all the Charity Shield games were very similar - For the first five or ten minutes you ducked! It was supposed to be a trial but it sort of ended up being a big bash."

It's a message that hasn't been lost on the current Rabbitohs playing squad who have retained the Charity Shield for the past four games. The 35th anniversary of the Charity Shield is shaping up to be one of the most exciting clashes for several years.

With the match scheduled as our last trial match before the start of the regular season, Michael Maguire and Dragons Head Coach Paul McGregor have named strong line-ups going into Sunday's fixture.

"It's another opportunity for our players to get out and perform and get close to that round one team. At the end of the day there is plenty of opportunity for our players to put their performances out on the park," said Maguire.

While today's Charity Shield is a far cry from the brutal encounters of the past 35 years, there is still a strong rivalry felt between the two Clubs. St George Illawarra Dragons winger Jason Nightingale expects the atmosphere to bring out the best in the rivalry. 

“I think it is also a good chance to test the occasion because the Charity Shield usually attracts a good crowd and I am sure this year will be no different," said Nightingale.

“The atmosphere simulates Round One and if you add to that the rivalry we have had with South Sydney for a lot of years it really feels like a lot more than a trial."

While the football has changed to a more sanitised and skillful game, the one thing that won't be changing in the Charity Shield clash is the focus on highlighting charitable causes. The original match was used to raise money for local hospitals and now is used to help Souths Cares continue their strong community work.

Peter Tunks looks back with a laugh at the irony of playing a vicious match in support of local hospitals.

"A couple of hospitals in both areas would benefit from the gate receipts and everybody that came to watch the game," said Tunks.

"In the end it was probably good because six or seven of the players ended up in the hospital too!"

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