While most NRL pre-season trial matches are used to test new combinations and upcoming players; the same cannot be said for the Charity Shield in 2008. With both Souths and the Dragons fielding squads of top line players, the match and result should go a long way in demonstrating the chances of both teams this year.
Souths are seemingly improving in every department as time ticks by. They are starting to possess the power and belief they craved only a short 18 months ago. Their recent trial outing against the Sharks once again reminded everyone, that Souths are the real deal these days. Big name players Roy Asotasi and David Kidwell both return for this game and will give South Sydney even more stability and thrust.
For the Dragons, this outing will really show us what 2008 holds for them. After finding a new halves combination that seems to work well, it’s the return of several injured stars this year that has a few punters thinking that the Saints could come marching in, right into the Top 8.
Mark Gasnier in particular was dynamic in his short stint against the Bulldogs last week. Looking at his elusive best, Gaz ran in a quick try and proved a handful everytime he touched the ball. His durability and return to the centres will be a keen spectacle. Every Dragons fan will cross their fingers when he touches the ball, hoping he doesn’t pickup an injury in some way.
Dean Young is another in this category. Unquestionably talented and extremely valuable to the St George Illawarra team – if Young comes through with a strong game and no injury worries, then Saints will quickly firm in the betting markets.
So in summary, we know South Sydney are going to be solid in the Charity Shield. They now have a few trial games under their belt, the early start in the USA helping them get things together more so than other teams. They are a team with solid defence and boast talent across the park and of course they made the Top 8 last year. Souths should at least achieve the same this year if not improve given current players, infrastructure, confidence and combinations growing with every game.
If the Dragons at full strength can compete consistently or overpower the Bunnies, it will certainly have the Saints camp quietly confident about the year ahead. It will show not only opposition teams, but also demonstrate to the Dragons themselves that they are truly back and ready to take on the big guns this year.
So forget about this game being just another trial. While there aren’t any NRL Results on offer, the winning side gains plenty. Confidence being the big reward and whoever wins has the best chance of taking that confidence and getting the snowball effect rolling into Round 1 and the early parts of the NRL season 2008.