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The St George Illawarra Dragons will this week head to the Central West of New South Wales, visiting nine towns in the lead-up to the 2018 Westfund Charity Shield.

In the lead up to the 35th annual event, the Dragons will visit local schools and communities to promote rugby league, healthy lifestyles and wellbeing.

The Dragons today (Tuesday, February 20) commenced their 16 scheduled school visits following trips in Rylstone and Kandos, before moving on to Lithgow, Wallerawang, Dunedoo, Coolah, Cudgegong, Gulgong and Mudgee on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Dragons' foray out to the Central West will reach over 5200 students and culminate on Thursday afternoon, February 22 at Glen Willow Stadium with a rugby league festival for local children to attend.

Kids in attendance will not only get to participate in the scheduled rugby league clinic but also meet their favourite players from both the Dragons and Rabbitohs. You can register for the rugby league festival here.

St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin said he and the squad were excited to get out to the Central West.

"Growing up in Cootamundra, I completely understand what it's like to grow up in the country and how excited these kids must be to meet NRL players and see the game," De Belin said.

"All the boys are looking forward to heading out there for a few days. It's our last match before we start the season so we'll all be ready to go."

The 2018 Westfund Charity Shield will kick-off at 7:30pm on Saturday, February 24 at Glen Willow Stadium.

Tickets to the 2018 Westfund Charity Shield are available to purchase here, while the Mudgee Faithful Red V Membership also remains on sale here.