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For 40 years, the Rabbitohs and the Dragons have battled one another in the pre-season, in what has always meant more than your average trial game. The Charity Shield has become a staple of the pre-season calendar, and this Saturday, these two fierce rivals will run out onto Netstrata Jubilee Stadium for the 41st rendition of this traditional clash.

As is always the case with trial games, new combinations will be tested, young stars and fresh faces will look to stake their claim for a first-grade position, while established players will dust off the cobwebs and get some much-needed game time in preparation for a long, arduous NRL campaign.

It all began in 1982, when Souths captain Mitch Brennan led his team onto Redfern Oval to face up against Craig Young’s Dragons. It was a fiery encounter, with referee Denis Braybrook struggling to control the players as several all-in-brawls errupted early on.

Souths came up short that day, winding up on the wrong end of a 9-7 scoreboard. However, the closeness of this contest was certainly a sign of things to come.

Since its inception, the Charity Shield has resulted in 18 wins for the Rabbitohs, 17 wins for the Dragons (both St George and St George Illawarra), and a total of five draws, truly an evenly contested battle if ever there was one.

While the tightness of this tussle over time cannot be denied, the Rabbitohs have undoubtedly asserted their superiority in this contest in recent seasons, having retained the shield in ten of the last 11 clashes.

2023 Charity Shield Highlights: Dragons vs Rabbitohs

This dominant run from the Rabbitohs includes a 12-all draw in 2015, when the then reigning premiers clawed their way back from a 12-0 deficit, levelling the scores in the 76th minute in what was a nail-biting finish.

It also includes a six-year winning streak starting in 2016, which culminated in a Latrell Mitchell-Cody Walker master class in 2021. Souths put St George Illawarra to the sword that day, winning 48-16 in what was the biggest ever victory margin in Charity Shield history.

The Dragons hit back in 2022, lifting the Shield for the first time in nine years after a 16-10 victory. However, Souths were quick to exact their revenge and regain the Shield in 2023, with Mitchell and Walker once again showing their class in orchestrating a 26-nil half-time lead, ultimately resulting in a 42-24 win to the Rabbitohs.

As far as this year’s contest goes, all eyes will be on new recruit Sean Keppie, who plays his first match for Souths after playing 79 for cross-town rivals the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. At 25 years of age, standing 193cm tall and weighing in at 110kg, Keppie is on the cusp of his prime as an NRL front rower. A renowned hit man during his time at Manly, he’ll be eyeing off a starting spot in the front row off the back of a big performance in this game.

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Another one to keep an eye on is young tearaway back rower Tallis Duncan. At just 21 years of age, young Tallis – named after former QLD captain Gorden Tallis – has been turning heads in the lower grades for Souths in the last few seasons.

After winning both the Player of the Year and Player’s Player awards for the Rabbitohs’ 2022 Jersey Flegg side, Tallis played in the Rabbitohs’ NSW Cup Grand Final and State Championship winning team in 2023, and played seven matches in first grade, scoring one try.

Duncan is one of several young stars competing for a spot in Jason Demetriou’s top 17. He’ll no doubt be looking to use this match to make a statement to the coach, and secure himself a ticket to Las Vegas to play Manly in round one.

With so much on the line, this match is sure to be gripping. Both sides will be keen to flex their muscles, and show the other 16 sides in the NRL that they won’t be easy to beat in 2024.

Stat Attack

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