By Mary Maidiotis
St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Mitch Rein is feeling confident about facing the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle on Saturday.
The NSW Country Origin representative believes that the Dragons are a different side to the one who lined up against the Knights in their final encounter of last season’s campaign, and is convinced the team can put in another good performance after back-to-back wins.
Rein, 24, is part of an 18-man travelling squad named by Head Coach Paul McGregor to contest the inaugural Alex McKinnon Cup.
“There’s a good feeling at the club, although we had a pretty poor start to the season, we knew that we were capable of putting in good performances,” said Rein.
“We just went away, worked hard and tried to bring that energy at the start of the game and that’s what we did against the Sea Eagles on the weekend so we are all pretty happy.
“Leading up to the Sea Eagles game, we spoke about our line defence and did a fair bit of work on it, so it’s pleasing that we were able to hold them to so little points, especially since they are such a great attacking side.
“Anyone can execute on the training paddock with no pressure, but it’s executing at crucial points in the game that we’re trying to work on and I feel like we’re going in the right direction.
“We created a lot of opportunities on the weekend but we didn’t quite get the points so it’s just pleasing to come away with the win and we will keep building on that.
“Newcastle are always a very physical and tough side and now we are playing for the Alex McKinnon Cup, as we are the two sides he played for, so there will be a lot of emotion in the game and I’m sure it will be pretty brutal.
“Our last encounter with them was a very disappointing way to finish the year, we didn’t have much to play for and the season was over, but we’ve briefly spoken about that and we know we are a different side now so we will be ready to go come Saturday.
“I haven’t had the chance to watch too many of Newcastle’s games this season but it’s well documented that they have some pretty damaging outside backs in Joey Leilua and Dane Gagai, so they are rather dangerous and we will have to be on our toes to contain them.”