By Mary Maidiotis

St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Mitch Rein is looking forward to facing up against the South Sydney Rabbitohs as part of Heritage Round at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Moore Park on Saturday.

The NSW Country Origin representative will play his hundredth first-grade game for the Red-and-Whites but remains focused on the task at hand helping the team return to winning ways.

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The Kiama Knights junior admits that although the side refuses to blame injuries for their recent string of losses, the return of some players in coming weeks will prove to be a massive boost.

The gaps in the squad allowed for several young players to make their first-grade debuts, including halfback Drew Hutchison, who Rein commended after an exhausting week in which he featured in the Under 20s State of Origin.

Rein, 25, remains hopeful that with extensive preparation, the Red-and-Whites can begin their charge towards the finals, starting this weekend against the Rabbitohs.

“It was very disappointing to come away with a loss against Cronulla in the local derby but the good thing about footy is that we can turn around next week against the Rabbitohs and build for the back end of the season,” said Rein.

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“We’ve played the last few weeks missing players through injury or suspension but we don’t like to blame our losses on that.

“Good things have come from that, it’s given a lot of young guys coming through the opportunity to play first-grade.

“It will definitely be a huge boost having all our players return over the next couple of weeks and working towards the semi-finals.

“It was a tough night for Drew in his debut but he had a massive week leading up to the game, he was man-of-the-match and captain in the U20s Origin so he’s got a huge future and he will go away and work on his game so that he will be ready to go when he gets his chance again.

“There’s a lot of history in this game, it’s Heritage Round, and we get to play on the SCG so it will be very interesting facing Souths as they are coming off a bye and we will have to be prepared."