Defiant St George Illawarra stars have insisted their round one blockbuster with newly crowned world champions Melbourne won't be the mismatch it appears on paper.
Bookmakers have taken a set against the Red V for the season-opening clash at AAMI Park on March 10, installing the Dragons as $3.75 outsiders to topple the premiers in Melbourne. It's the longest price in head-to-head betting afforded to any team in round one.
But after the clubs completed vastly contrasting preseason preparations over the weekend, hooker Mitch Rein and returning prop Michael Weyman declared the Dragons were confident of troubling the Storm.
"We'll be ready and we're confident we can match it with them," Rein said after the Dragons slipped to a 28-10 Charity Shield defeat to the Souths on Friday night.
"They've got the good players that they have in Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, but we're confident we've got the roster here to go out and really give them a run for their money.
"We pulled their pants down at the end of last year, but it's a new season and we're really looking forward to the challenge down there."
Craig Bellamy's Storm indicated their title defence wouldn't get off to a slow start after edging past Super League champions Leeds 18-14 in the World Club Challenge on Saturday morning.
Quizzed on how much improvement the Dragons would need to derive from a bumbling first-half Charity Shield effort, Weyman said: "I'm sure the next two weeks are going to be pretty good for us.
"We'll tweak a few things and I thought a lot of positives came out of [Friday] night. I'm sure we'll be ready and raring in two weeks time.
"They're a well-drilled side and they have been for a long time. You have to be right on your game for them."
Former representative prop Weyman returned from a nine-month injury layoff with a pleasing cameo appearance off the bench against a Greg Inglis-inspired Rabbitohs.
With regular partner in crime Dan Hunt (calf) also inching towards a return in round one, Weyman said he would love to earn a starting berth in Steve Price's pack for the Storm clash.
"I got through [Friday] night and if I can get a starting spot if Pricey wants me there, then I'm ready to go," the 28-year-old said.
"I tried to stay as relaxed as I could, but [Friday] morning I woke up and couldn't help it. I felt OK - I wouldn't say I felt great - but I felt OK out there. I was just happy to get through.
"There's a lot of people there vying for spots, everyone's on notice, so whatever the coach wants to do we'll just go with."
Rein shrugged off any concerns over a shoulder injury he suffered when reeling out of a second-half attempted tackle on George Burgess.
Price said the workaholic hooker would be sent for scans early this week.
However, Rein said there would be no doubt on whether he would line up against Australian skipper Smith.
"It just ended up being a bit of a stinger and a bit of neural pain," Rein said.
"I spoke to [Dragons performance director] Andrew Gray and he was pretty happy with how it's going so I'm feeling pretty confident it will be good."
Price said he was also confident Matt Cooper (calf) and Jason Nightingale (sciatica) would shrug off minor problems out of the Charity Shield, while Cameron King (concussion) would be monitored over the next fortnight.