The Charity Shield will celebrate its 38th edition on Saturday night when the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs take the field at Mudgee's Glen Willow Stadium.
- Charity Shield to remain in Mudgee
- Dragons name Charity Shield squad
- Former Red V men named for Rabbitohs
Strong squads for majority's first and final pre-season hit-out
The Dragons and Rabbitohs have named their strongest possible line-ups ahead of Saturday evening's traditional pre-season trial.
Cameron McInnes's tragic ACL injury aside, the Dragons have no injuries en route to the Central West of New South Wales.
Ben Hunt will lead the team for the first time while the likes of Daniel Alvaro, Jack Bird, Kaide Ellis, Poasa Faamausili, Max Feagai, Josh Kerr, Andrew McCullough, Cody Ramsey and Jayden Sullivan will all play their first Charity Shield game.
Latrell Mitchell (hamstring) makes his long-awaited return for South Sydney after playing a starring role for the Indigenous All Stars team last weekend.
Jaydn Su'A and Liam Knight are unavailable, but the likes of Josh Mansour, Benji Marshall and Jai Arrow will don the myrtle and cardinal for the first time.
Former Dragons Jacob Host, Steven Marsters and Hame Sele will also line up for Souths.
The majority of players will feature in their first and final pre-season trial in accordance to the NRL's 2021 pre-season trial regulations.
First grade spots up for grabs
Jack Bird's pre-season might have been spent training in the forwards, but the local junior has made no secret of his desire to start his maiden Dragons campaigns in the centres.
Not content playing second fiddle, Brayden Wiliame and Max Feagai will have their own opportunities to impress against Souths after spending time there at different points in 2020.
Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa and Cody Ramsey meanwhile are locked in a fierce battle for the two wing spots, while Tyson Frizell's departure has opened up a wide list of variables in the back row.
New recruits Daniel Alvaro, Kaide Ellis and Poasa Faamausili will vie for their own Round 1 forward pack opportunities in Mudgee alongside incumbents Josh Kerr, Trent Merrin, Paul Vaughan and Blake Lawrie.
Charity still the focus of annual tradition
The crown jewel of the NRL's pre-season calendar began in 1982 and so too did the tradition of supporting charities close to both the Dragons and Rabbitohs' hearts.
The Dragons will also spend the week leading into the weekend's clash visiting various schools across the Central West of New South Wales.
Charity Shield's vicious cycle
The Dragons are on the precipice of losing their edge in overall Charity Shield history.
The Rabbitohs' sixth win in seven years, including 2020's 26-12 triumph, has each club on 16 victories apiece (with five draws to boot).
The Red V can ill-afford to lose Mudgee's fourth iteration of the Charity Shield if they wish to maintain the edge over a much-fancied South Sydney outfit.