St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has named a strong 23-man squad for the 36th annual Westfund Charity Shield against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Mudgee's Glen Willow Stadium on Saturday, March 2.
Tyson Frizell and James Graham will play their first game of 2019 after both were rested last weekend; while in the interest of player welfare, Jack de Belin will not travel with the squad to Mudgee or participate in the Westfund Charity Shield.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor gave praise for his side's 18-10 win over the Newcastle Knights, but was hoping to up the ante against South Sydney.
"The Charity Shield is always a good contest with the atmosphere and intensity to rival an NRL game. We'll be running out a side this week that will be as close as possible to what we're looking at for Round 1 (against the Cowboys)," McGregor said.
"The most important thing for me is to give the necessary players an appropriate amount of minutes under duress so that they're ready for Round 1, rather than begin that process once the competition begins.
"The plan is to be better than what we were [last weekend]. At times we demonstrated the changes we made in our pre-season, and we now have to lengthen the time to play better for longer. There were times where we needed to be more physical with our defence and speed up our attack.
"Mudgee is a great town where we have had two great experiences over the past year. We are really looking forward to getting back out there and connect with each other and the community.
"They love their rugby league in the Central West and this is a great chance for those living in the region to see first-hand a great match and some of the best players in the game."
The Rabbitohs will enter the clash with the Westfund Charity Shield in hand following their 22-18 win in the corresponding game last year.
In their 35 previous Charity Shield clashes, the Dragons have recorded 16 wins, the Rabbitohs 14 with the two clubs drawing on five occasions.
The Dragons' Intrust Super Premiership and Jersey Flegg trials will take place against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Redfern Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Dragons Westfund Charity Shield squad (alphabetically):
Euan Aitken, Matt Dufty, Jai Field, Tyson Frizell, James Graham Jacob Host, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Tim Lafai, Jeremy Latimore, Blake Lawrie, Luciano Leilua, Zac Lomax, Cameron McInnes, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa, Reece Robson, Korbin Sims, Tariq Sims, Lachlan Timm, Paul Vaughan, Gareth Widdop
Timings for Westfund Charity Shield:
Gates open: 5pm
Indigenous NSW 16s v Indigenous Qld 16s: 5:30pm
NRL kick-off: 7:30pm