The annual Charity Shield enters its 40th edition this Saturday, and what better way to re-introduce a majority of the first-grade side to the paddock for 2023 than with a classic rivalry?

The Script So Far: Rabbitohs vs Dragons

Since 1982 the Rabbitohs and Dragons have done battle in the pre-season for the Charity Shield in an effort to not only ring in the season, but do so for a greater cause, with thousands of dollars donated to a number of charities thanks to the generous efforts of both clubs.

Season 2023 marks the 40th occasion the Cardinal and Myrtle do battle with the Red V, which will also mean the deadlock will be broken, with 17 titles apiece including 5 draws as the Red and Green play for the Club’s chosen charity, Souths Cares.

The mighty Rabbitohs have claimed 9 of the last 10 Charity Shield matches, however will be looking to reclaim the title after being bested in a scrappy 16-10 encounter last year – so there’s plenty of motivation for Jason Demetriou’s men as they head into their fifth year at Mudgee.

Even better for travelling fans will be the chance to see the next generation of Rabbitohs stars in the flesh, as the NSW Cup side takes on the Dragons in the curtain-raiser, which will feature a handful of players who will also take the field in the main event.

The Line Ups

South Sydney Members and supporters will be thrilled to see a near full-strength line up take the field at Glen Willow Oval this Saturday afternoon, which will see a host of names including the spine of Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Lachlan Ilias and Damien Cook take the field for the first time in 2023.

Captain Cameron Murray will lead a fearsome forward pack including fellow backrowers Jai Arrow and Keaon Koloamatangi, while Junior Tatola and Thomas Burgess take their place in the front row. Izaac Thompson has won the race for the vacant wing spot, and will line up alongside Alex Johnston, Campbell Graham and Isaiah Tass in a potent backline.

The 13-man interchange bench features a number of familiar and new faces, with the likes of Blake Taaffe, Peter Mamouzelos, Jacob Host, Shaquai Mitchell, Davvy Moale, Richie Kennar and Michael Chee-Kam looking to stake claims for starting spots ahead of Round 1.

Exciting young prospects Josiah Karapani, Terrell Kalo Kalo, Ben Lovett, Thomas Fletcher, Jacob Gagai and Dion Teaupa will all be keen to impress the coaching staff in search of first-grade berths throughout 2023 as well, so keep an eye out for these young men throughout the match.

While St George Illawarra will have a handful of omissions from their regular side, they still boast the likes of State of Origin representative Ben Hunt, explosive centre Zac Lomax and former Rabbitoh Jaydn Su’A, so the men from Redfern will need to be on their toes for the entire 80 minutes.
Latrell Mitchell (2022)
Cody Walker

I can’t wait to rip in with the boys and get season 2022 going. It’s going to be another great year and we’ll get to play in front of our Members and fans in Sydney more this coming season as well.

Key Battle: Highlighting the Halfbacks

While it might not count for competition points, this match up will be the perfect litmus test for young Lachlan Ilias ahead of his second full NRL season with the no.7 on his back. In his first match for 2023, the little general has the task of facing up against State of Origin and former Australian halfback Ben Hunt, who leads the Dragons as both their skipper and go-to-man in attack.

With 12 try assists and 16 line drop outs forced throughout 2022, Ilias proved to be a dual threat with both the ball in hand and on the boot, while his running game saw him average 65 running metres, culminating in 5 tries.

His opposite in Hunt had arguably his best season in the Red V - despite the side failing to qualify for the finals - contributing 17 tries and forcing 13 drop outs while scoring 6 four-pointers of his own.

Hot off a strong campaign with Greece in their inaugural World Cup campaign, the 22-year-old is on track for a strong second year in the Red and Green following an impressive debut season, and that all begins with a big performance in Mudgee on Saturday afternoon.
Lachlan Ilias (2022)

In Conclusion

For many, the annual Charity Shield marks the official start of not just the Rabbitohs’ and Dragons’ seasons, but the NRL season in general, and 2023 will be no different.

With a strong line up and a host of up-and-comers, the Cardinal and Myrtle are in a great position to not only reclaim the shield back and bring it back to Redfern where it rightfully should be, but to start the season on the right foot.

Members and supporters travelling to Mudgee can purchase their tickets here, while those looking to catch the main match can watch on either FoxSports or stream via Kayo with the brand-new kick-off time of 4:20pm AEDT. Glory, Glory.

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