2016 Charity Shield
Rabbitohs v Dragons
The next instalment of the Charity Shield story is just one sleep away now, with the Rabbitohs and Dragons set to reignite their long rivalry for the occasion.
Widely considered by many to signal the beginning of the Rugby League season, the Charity Shield has played an integral role in the preparation of both the Rabbitohs and Dragons for the season proper since first being played at Redfern Oval in 1982.
On that occasion, it was St George who came out on top in a low-scoring 9-7 score-line – the Rabbitohs winning their first Shield in 1984 by 24-6, again at Redfern Oval.
But prior results will matter for little come kick-off on Saturday.
Both teams will be without their respective All Stars contingent – the Rabbitohs without Greg Inglis, Thomas Burgess and Adam Reynolds – while the Dragons will be missing skipper, Gareth Widdop as well as Joel Thompson.
For the Rabbitohs, Head Coach Michael Maguire, has given an opportunity to a number of new faces, including Michael Oldfield, who will take his place at fullback, while Hymel Hunt will also get an opportunity in the centres.
The men in Red and Green will also boast a new-look halves pairing, with Luke Keary and Cody Walker set to combine.
The opportunities extend to the forward pack though, with Zane Musgrove, Cameron McInnes, Jason Clark, and Paul Carter all receiving starting spots for the clash.
“There’s a lot of competition over pre-season with a few new additions like Dane Nielson and a number of others,” said Maguire.
“It’s created some great competition, but going into the Charity Shield, we’re going to look at a lot of our younger guys, but that brings opportunity.”
Souths centre, Bryson Goodwin, mirrored the thoughts of his coach.
“We’re missing a few, sure, but a few newer and young guys will get a shot,” said Goodwin.
“They’ll be given the chance to show what they’ve got and that just feeds back into the excitement around the place at the moment.
“Those younger boys bring a lot of enthusiasm and to get that chance in the Charity Shield – it’s one of the biggest trial matches you can play in.
“I remember getting my first start in this game and it was a really special moment, so I’m sure it’ll be no different for them.”
The clash has always been about contributing to the wider community, and for the Rabbitohs, that means Souths Cares, who will get a leg-up for their 2016 fundraising as they look to continue their work in providing quality service based on their three key pillars; education, health and employment.
That fact isn’t lost on Maguire or his playing group.
“It’s always a special game – I think – for our Club,” said the mentor.
“Obviously the Club spends a lot of time on charities, but this one just recognises Souths Cares and the things that go on in the background, but it’s also the first game of the year.”
The Dragons meanwhile have opted for experience, with the likes of Benji Marshall, Mitch Rein, Jason Nightingale and more set to come up against the Rabbitohs.
For Marshall, the clash represents his first game following an ankle injury.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and competing in the Charity Shield this weekend,” Marshall told Dragons.com.au during the week.
“The Dragons medical staff had opted to rest me from the Nines tournament to allow me some extra time to recover from the off-season ankle surgery but I feel fit and ready.
“The Rabbitohs forward-pack always pose a threat but we have recruited a lot of size and depth within our own squad too and it will be good to see them in action come kick-off.”
2016 Charity Shield
Rabbitohs v Dragons
The Rabbitohs NYC (under 20s) side will have their second trial of the new-year in the Charity Shield curtain-raiser, after playing the Sydney Roosters at Redfern Oval last Friday night.
The match would finish four tries to two in favour of the Roosters but for Head Coach, David Penna, it was all about assessing the progress of his team following a gruelling off-season – a total of some 27 players being used in during the course of the contest.
“We had a good hit-out against the Roosters,” said the mentor.
“We played three 25 minute thirds – we started well and the boys put in a big effort. It’s been a long 12 weeks (of) pre-season, so I think they were just pleased to get out there and start playing some footy.”
Make sure you head out to ANZ Stadium early to check out the future of the Club as the boys from the NYC take on the best of St George Illawarra’s upcoming talent.