The St George Illawarra Dragons will face the Warriors at Central Coast Stadium on Friday, July 2. This is your Round 16 game day guide.
Match: Warriors v Dragons
Round 16 -
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
The NRL announced earlier this week a return to Level 4 Covid-19 protocols in a bid to ensure public safety and the continuity of the competition ahead of Round 16.
Level 4 protocols, which governed the resumption of the competition after the initial Covid-enforced suspension last year, dictate that players must remain at home unless training, playing or completing an essential household task and visitors are not permitted into the homes of players or officials.
As a result there will be no crowd at Central Coast Stadium on Friday evening, taking into account the state government's enforced lockdown across Greater Sydney (including the Central Coast, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains).
The Knock On Effect Cup and Jersey Flegg competitions have also been postponed as a result of the aforementioned enforced lockdown.
Former Dragon, now Warriors centre Euan Aitken and teammate Josh Curran were ruled out for the next two weeks earlier this week due to a combination of NRL protocols and state government orders. They were on a flight from the Gold Coast to Sydney that had a Covid-positive flight attendant on board.
St George Illawarra players Corey Norman, Cody Ramsey and Tyrell Sloan discussed the feeling within the Dragons' bubble throughout the week.
Players adapt to COVID bubble
Games don't come more important for the Dragons' than Friday's against the Warriors.
A log-jam of teams – from seventh to 14th – remain four competition points apart.
With a Round 17 bye beckoning for St George Illawarra, the all-important four-point game cliché will be trotted out at some point.
All three Dragons' State of Origin II representatives Ben Hunt, Andrew McCullough and Tariq Sims have been named alongside previous suspended duo Tyrell Fuimaono and Josh McGuire in a boost for the club.
Livewire fullback Matt Dufty has also been named to return from a shoulder complaint. The same cannot be said for Zac Lomax who will continue his rehabilitation from a thumb injury.
Mid-season signings boost opponents
Six weeks ago Chad Townsend broke Dragons' fans hearts when he slot a golden point field goal to guide the Sharks to victory.
Coincidentally that would be Townsend's final game for the team he guided to the 2016 premiership.
While off to the Cowboys in 2022, Townsend's has signed a short-term deal with the Warriors for the remainder of this season and will play his first game for the club in six years against the Red V.
Townsend isn't the only mid-season recruit set to play for the Warriors on Friday.
Incumbent Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been named on the wing in a team reeling from the losses of Aitken, Curran, Chanel Harris-Tavita and bright upstart Reece Walsh.
Stats that matter
Andrew McCullough's 55 tackles in the Dragons' last start victory over the Canberra Raiders has helped his push to the NRL's most prolific tackler.
The Queensland Origin rake has made 760 tackles in 2021, 32 more than the next best in his former Newcastle teammate Jayden Brailey.
Jack de Belin joined McCullough in the starting line-up against Canberra, his first start since week two of the finals in 2018.
De Belin made 156 metres and 31 tackles in a tidy 58-minute stint.