Coach Nathan Brown has named the strongest St George Illawarra Dragons side for some time for the Dragons 2008 pre-season trial match against the Bulldogs at WIN Stadium this weekend. Only Dean Young is missing from this classy looking side, on paper it starts to regain some of the allure that past Dragons outfits have had.
It’s widely known that the Dragons are the most injured team in the NRL. Can the St George-Illawarra side avoid the dreaded curse this year? Or will NRL 2008 remain another year where stars remain in the hospital ward?
I feel the Dragons may be about to get some luck, well some may not call it luck – but with several players in the squad getting on in years they virtually have to perform regardless of their health this season. The likes of Jason Ryles, Mark Gasnier, Ben Hornby and Matt Cooper are well experienced and the opportunity for them to win a premiership and sign longer contracts certainly must remain an attraction.
Surrounding this leadership group at the Saints, are some encouraging new stars that can hopefully shed the injury curse from the promising club. Jamie Soward looks to have really found a home at the Dragons and plays a much more relaxed, free flowing game than he did at the Roosters. Combining well with Rangi Chase in the halves, the Dragons again look to possess some of the strike poker they had with Head/Barrett at one stage.
Newcastle Knights discard Kirk Reynoldson will be the real wildcard for the Dragons, surely wanting to prove a point and get himself back into the regular routine of first grade – expect a solid showing from the former Knights and Storm player. A player in the real workhorse mould, he should assist the Saints who up until the acquisition of Simon Woolford lacked some real cattle dogs.
2008 might just be a year that the Dragons surprise us, certain to perform better than their horror showing last year – this side will have others certainly peering over their shoulders.
In opposition this weekend, the Bulldogs will unleash some of their big guns too – with Steve Folkes giving Sonny Bill Williams, Reni Maitua and Willie Tonga the nod for the Wollongong match. For the Dragons, it’s their last hit out before the popular Charity Shield Match for 2008 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Dragons Squad for 2008 Pre Season Trial against Bulldogs: Ben Hornby, Jason Nightingale, Mark Gasnier (c), Matt Cooper, Josh Morris, Rangi Chase, Jamie Soward, Justin Poore, Simon Woolford, Jason Ryles, Beau Scott, Ben Creagh, Chase Stanley.
Interchange: Dan Hunt, Kirk Reynoldson, Lagi Setu, Brett Morris, Stuart Webb, Ben Ellis, Ricky Thorby, Jon Green, Dean Whare, Tony Caine, Matt Prior, Michael Lett, Frank Samia, Mark Hendy, Jardine Bobongie, Jarrod Saffy, Alex Ranieri, Joe Falemaka.