Dragons try to pacify a Storm of angry fans

RUGBY LEAGUE  

The Dragons are moving to compensate frustrated Illawarra-based fans with WIN Stadium set to host marquee match-ups after the release of next year's draw.

Already reeling from their home game allocation being shaved from six to four, South Coast fans fear a conveyor belt of low-profile sides would make up Wollongong's home game allocation.

But WIN Stadium will host Jamie Soward's return to Dragons turf - alongside other marquee clashes against the Broncos, Sharks and Storm - after faring favourably in the home game split.

It compares well to Kogarah's four fixtures, which will feature the Warriors, Cowboys and Titans. Manly will be the only Sydney rival to visit WIN Jubilee Oval for a Monday clash in round 19.

The Dragons will use five different venues to host clashes in 2014 under a new home ground policy set down for the next five years.

It will be put to an immediate test when life after Benji Marshall starts for the Tigers in a Sunday first round clash against the Dragons at ANZ Stadium.

In other highlights stemming from the Dragons' draw:

■ The Red V paid the price for a dismal 2013 season, featuring on Friday free-to-air coverage only twice in the first 20 rounds;

■ St George Illawarra will be the opposition in one of three Warriors' clashes at Eden Park in Auckland (round two);

■ The Heritage Round clash against the Rabbitohs will be played in round five at the SCG;

■ Jamie Soward will take on his old club in round 14 before the Panthers visit WIN Stadium in round 22;

■ The Dragons face a daunting finish to the season with trips to Brisbane and Newcastle scheduled for the final two rounds

Dragons chief executive officer Peter Doust again defended the club's shift towards hosting games in major Sydney stadiums while outlining the importance of their suburban grounds.

"We will always be committed to our region and traditions; however we also want all our members and fans to be able to see the biggest games of the year, and to receive increased benefits," he said.

Dragons utility Kyle Stanley said the club's Wollongong roots were still integral to the Red V, who face a daunting opening six rounds with a trip to New Zealand and fixtures against the Sharks, Broncos, Rabbitohs and Storm.

"[Wollongong] is obviously where we're based at and all the training is based there," he said.

"It's definitely going to be a tough start to the season. It's going to be important [to start well] as towards the end of the year when players get hurt ... it's good to have those early wins.

Dragons membership packages went on sale yesterday.

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