It’s that time of year again - the unofficial start of the season. Of course, we’re talking the Westfund Charity Shield. Here are The Big Talking Points heading into the 36th annual match.
|Date:||2 March 2019|
|Venue:||Glen Willow Regional Sports Complex, Mudgee|
|NSW Indigenous U16s v QLD Indigenous U16s Kick-Off||5:30pm|
The Cardinal and Myrtle and the red V have a rivalry that spans nearly 100 years, one that is based on success and mutual respect.
But when talking of the Charity Shield, you have to notch things back to 1982, where the very first edition was played at Redfern Oval, with the Dragons prevailing a narrow 9-7 contest. Over the next few seasons, the yearly event became an unofficial start to the season, with fierce contests filled with plenty of intensity from all players involved.
In total there have been 35 Charity Shield matches, with the Dragons winning 16 and South Sydney claiming 14 wins - however, it is important to note that the Club has retained the shield in all five draws that have been played, meaning that really, the Rabbitohs have 19 to our name.
We've held the shield since 2013, retaining the title through a draw in 2015, and now have the chance to create history by making it a record seven seasons in a row.
The 2019 edition will be played for the second year in a row in Mudgee, with the Rabbitohs prevailing 22-18 in a thrilling contest at the Glen Willow Regional Sporting Stadium, which also marked the return of captain Greg Inglis from a long injury lay-off.
|1990||Draw||10-10 (Rabbitohs retain)||2010||Draw||26-26 (Rabbitohs retain)|
|1991||Draw||16-16 (Rabbitohs retain)||2011||Dragons||32-10|
|1995||Dragons||18-10||2015||Draw||12-12 (Rabbitohs retain)|
The Line Ups
While South Sydney have named a traditional line up including an extended bench, St. George Illawarra have opted to name a squad with no positions set so far.
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has named a formidable side including a number of senior players Alex Johnston, Dane Gagai, Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Sam Burgess and John Sutton.
The line up also features youngsters who will be pushing for a permanent first-grade berth, with Corey Allan, Braidon Burns, Connor Tracey, Tom Amone, Rhys Kennedy, Bayley Sironen, Cory Denniss, Liam Knight and Mawene Hiroti featuring.
Fans will also get a first glimpse of the Club’s newest signing, backrower Ethan Lowe, who will start from the interchange bench in the no.14 jersey.
Although captain Greg Inglis, George Burgess and Adam Reynolds - who was the hero in the last meeting between the two sides in the 2018 elimination final - are absent, there is still plenty of firepower in the side to take on their rivals.
Speaking of which, St. George Illawarra’s squad features a predominately first-grade line up, with the likes of James Graham, Tyson Frizell, Ben Hunt, Gareth Widdop, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims, Matt Dufty as well as new signings Korbin Sims and Corey Norman.
Expect plenty of fireworks when these sides come together on Saturday night.
St. George Illawarra Dragons squad: Euan Aitken, Matt Dufty, Jai Field, Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Jacob Host, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Tim Lafai, Jeremy Latimore, Blake Lawrie, Luciano Leilua, Zac Lomax, Cameron McInnes, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa, Reece Robson, Korbin Sims, Tariq Sims, Lachlan Timm, Paul Vaughan, Gareth Widdop.
The Ones To Watch
Damien Cook vs Cameron McInnes
Season 2018 was a breakout year for Damien Cook, not only earning a starting 80-minute role in Red and Green, but also making his debut for the State of Origin series-winning NSW side, as well as playing for the Kangaroos and being named Dally M Hooker of the Year, among winning other awards.
Both hookers also play considerably different games, however, with Cook employing a more explosive approach, taking advantage of his forwards’ quick play the balls to tear through the opponent’s defences at speed, while McInnes prefers to take on a workman-like style of play in the middle of the field.
Although both number nines contrast each other, their importance to their respective side is equal, and the performances will go a long way to dictate who will come out on top.
Burgess Brothers vs Sims Brothers
Although George Burgess is out of the contest through suspension, brothers Thomas and Sam will get an early season sibling rivalry with the Sims brothers.
With Sam shifting to the second row, this effectively means he will be directly opposing Tariq, with an all-important battle on the edge on the cards looking like a mouth-watering prospect for both fanbases.
Meanwhile, Thomas and Korbin will be doing battle up the middle of the field, trying to gain as much territorial advantage for their sides as possible.
The Sims boys like to come out hard and fast, and have plenty of aggression about them, but we all know what the Burgess brothers can produce - and they will certainly be taking it as a personal challenge to get the Red and Green on the front foot.
The Final Verdict
With both sides choosing to field such strong line ups, it's hard to say which will come up on top.
Although the Dragons only have one notable absence in Jack de Belin, the Rabbitohs would normally be with Inglis, George Burgess and Reynolds, however the men who will fill in are more than capable of doing the required job.
While it's hard to come up with a final verdict with the Dragons yet to name a set line up, one thing that is a certainty is the fact both sides will be raring to go despite no competition points up for sale.
From a punter's point of view, I'm going Rabbitohs by 8.