FORMER Kiwi international Nathan Fien will start at halfback after coach Steve Price named the St George Illawarra lineup to take on Melbourne on Sunday.
Fien was chosen ahead of rising star Josh Drinkwater, while Tyson Frizell will start in the second row, beating a late charge from Bronson Harrison, who has been recovering from injury.
Chase Stanley has edged out Daniel Vidot for the right centre position, with props Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt have been named to start, with Trent Merrin at lock.
Gerard Beale will make his debut at fullback.
Price declared he is looking forward to the challenge of taking on the world champions and NRL premiers in round one at AAMI Park.
‘‘It’s a really strong squad and I’m just really looking forward to getting down there on Sunday and executing our plays to the best of our ability and putting in a good performance against the reigning premiers,’’ he said.
‘‘I know what the guys have put in throughout that preseason.
‘‘They’ve worked extremely hard and we’ve worked harder than what we ever have before.
‘‘I’m really confident in the players I’ve got in the 17 I’m taking down to Melbourne of putting in a good performance. That gives me a huge amount of confidence.’’
The Dragons have not won in Melbourne since 1999.
MELBOURNE v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Sunday, 3pm, AAMI Park
1 Gerard Beale
2 Brett Morris
3 Chase Stanley
4 Matt Cooper
5 Jason Nightingale
6 Jamie Soward
7 Nathan Fien
8 Dan Hunt
9 Mitch Rein
10 Michael Weyman
11 Tyson Frizell
12 Ben Creagh (c)
13 Trent Merrin
14 Bronson Harrison
15 Leeson Ah Mau
16 Matt Prior
17 Cameron King
19 Jack Stockwell