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The St George Illawarra Dragons will face the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Sunday, July 12 (6:30pm). This is your Round 9 game guide. 

On the 84th day…

It feels like 10 years have passed since St George Illawarra last played out of Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, such have the past 84 days dragged on.

The big difference maker this time around? You! There will be crowds allowed back – although restricted to eligible Red V members and corporates – into watch the Red V go around on Sunday, a whole three months since they were banished for the health and safety of wider society.

Our long-awaited return to Kogarah will be subject to government health regulations, where crowd size remains restricted, to currently, up to 25 per cent of stadium capacity.

Member entrance will be subject to a ballot to be drawn at random – those who entered the ballot should receive news of their attendance on Thursday, July 9. 

Fans in attendance are encouraged to plan to arrive early as parking in the area will be in high demand and traffic may be heavier than usual. Those travelling by public transport are reminded that services continue to operate at a reduced capacity to maintain physical distancing across the network.

Westfund High Performance Update: Tariq Sims, Jacob Host

Desperation stakes

If finals football is in the Dragons' future in 2020 then it's becoming increasingly important to pull it together after two close losses to last year's grand finalists (Sydney Roosters and Canberra Raiders).

The inclusion of Tariq Sims and Jordan Pereira will go a long way in righting the wrongs of the past fortnight for the Dragons.

Ben Hunt has been named to start at hooker for only the seventh time in his NRL career, and for the first time since the 2017 preliminary finals, although he has played there for the Dragons over the past month from the interchange. Cameron McInnes will formally line up in the No. 13 jumper for the first time in his career as a result.

The Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles have too lost their past two matches, and to go along with Tom Trbojevic (hamstring) and Dylan Walker (ankle), have now lost Addin Fonua-Blake (suspension).

History has favoured the Dragons over the previous five seasons, them having won five of their past seven meetings with the Sea Eagles – although the Red V's last meeting with Manly (Round 14, 2019) ended in a 20-point loss.

Aitken keen to improve despite his strong form

Dragons juniors custodian collide

St George Illawarra fullback Matt Dufty debuted in 2017 against the Sea Eagles. This weekend he will play opposite former teammate and fellow local Dragons junior Reuben Garrick.

The Gerringong junior Garrick – who joined Manly last year – has faced a baptism of fire in his NRL introduction to fullback and has quite the challenge on hand with the in-form Dufty.

Despite the Dragons two recent losses, Dufty has scored and set up two tries apiece and averaged 161 metres. Garrick isn't too far off the pace considering his 156.5 metres averaged per game in Rounds 7 and 8 – a match-up to look forward to if ever there was one.

Farewell to Thommo

Joel Thompson played 85 games for the Dragons between 2014 and 2017, and on Sunday will likely play his final game at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

A fan-favourite during his time in the Red V, Thompson will depart the NRL at season's end for the English Super League.

Pereira not taking time in NRL for granted