Mary Maidiotis

St George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop is keen to face his former teammates the Melbourne Storm at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah, in the season opener on Monday.

Widdop, 25, is part of the 19-man squad selected by Head Coach Paul McGregor for the opening fixture of the new competition season which also includes former Storm alumni George Rose and Dane Nielsen.

The encounter will mark the England Lions international’s third hit-out against the Storm since joining the Red-and-Whites but his first competing in Kogarah.

Widdop scored one try and two goals the last time the two sides battled each other at WIN Stadium, Wollongong last July and will do what he can to try and secure two valuable competition points this time around.

“I’m very much looking forward to starting the season off well at Kogarah in front of a big crowd and against a great Melbourne team,” said Widdop.

“It’s been a long pre-season but we’ve had two good trials which we got a lot of confidence out of and the team’s really excited about getting out there and putting in a good performance.

“The trip to Warrington was great, it was an important fixture for us and it was really positive to end our preseason on a high.

“However, the trip to England and back was long, so we’re lucky that the game is on Monday as opposed to Thursday, as it gives us a full week of preparation.

“We’ve had a fair few new faces added to the team with coaching staff taking over, preseason’s been a lot different but very enjoyable.

“We’ve done all the hard work so now it’s all about our preparation, making sure we’ve got everything right, ticking all those boxes and then going out there on Monday night and putting in a good performance.”

The Dragons will be contesting the Emergency Services Cup against their interstate-rivals with Emergency Services personnel able to watch for free (with identification shown at the gate).

The Emergency Services Cup is an initiative between the Dragons and the Storm, with the support of the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, established in 2009.

It recognises all the Emergency Services personnel who give up their services to the communities of both States.