Both the Dragons and Wests Tigers have a point to prove in 2020 after failing to make the finals last year.
St George Illawarra's 15th-place finish was the worst since the joint venture was formed in 1999, while the Tigers fell just short in coming ninth.
The teams met only once in 2019, the Tigers recording a resounding 42-14 victory in round 24 at the SCG.
Dragons: The Dragons will start the match 1-13 with Josh Kerr (No.21) to start from the interchange bench after Jackson Ford and Euan Aitken were the final two players dropped from the squad. James Graham suits up for the first time in 2020 after missing the trials and will be joined in the front row by Paul Vaughan and Warriors recruit Issac Luke. Jacob Host and Adam Clune were left out 24 hours from kick-off.
Wests Tigers: Josh Reynolds moves from the bench to halfback in place of Luke Brooks who will miss the match because of a calf injury. Oliver Clark and Paul Momirovski were the two players left out an hour before play started. Corey Thompson has won the fullback role and new recruit Adam Doueihi will play centre. Billy Walters gets the nod at hooker. Matt Eisenhuth joined Brooks as the two players omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Tyson Frizell v Luke Garner. The Dragons' Test and Origin star is the gold standard for back-rowers while Garner is on the rise and will need to step up this season following Ryan Matterson’s departure to Parramatta.
For the Dragons to win
The influence of former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan on St George Illawarra's defence has been heralded and some new-found starch could get the Dragons over the line. Halfback Ben Hunt will have to go to another level in attack following the departure of Gareth Widdop, whose absence was felt when injured in 2019.
For the Tigers to win
As much as the Dragons may have improved over the off-season, constant attacking pressure from the Tigers and cracks could begin to re-emerge. A strong start to take the wind out of St George Illawarra's sails is key.
Brett Kimmorley says
There's a bit of pressure on the Dragons this year. They should have the ability to win this game given it's in Wollongong but I like the Tigers under Michael Maguire; they're a tough and gritty side. There's a question over the dummy-half role but Benji Marshall is still in brilliant form. Tigers by 4.
The Dragons conceded the second most points last season at 23.9 per game. The Tigers, meanwhile, allowed 20.25.
And another thing ...
New Tiger Luciano Leilua made his NRL debut in 2016 with the Dragons and played 44 games for the Red V. He played the bulk of those matches off the bench but scored tries in each of his first three appearances in the starting side – the third coming against the Tigers in round 23, 2018.