Local focus pays dividends for Steelers and Dragons

The Illawarra Steelers and St George junior teams have invested in homegrown talent this season with just three players in the four teams drawn from outside local catchment areas.

Dragons 2010 premiership player Dean Young shares the role of St George Illawarra junior representative co-ordinator with Ben Hornby.

He said it was testimony to the club that it would have homegrown teams in the Harold Matthews Cup (under-16) and SG Ball Cup (under-18) competitions.

"We're looking at close to 100 players through the four teams and only three players aren't from the St George Illawarra junior catchment," Young said.

"It's pretty impressive the club has shown so much faith in local talent which hopefully will come through ... for St George Illawarra at NRL level."

The Steelers' SG Ball and Harold Matthews Cup teams missed the semi-finals last year.

While the coaches are chasing a finals spot, Young says there is a bigger picture at junior level.

"It's about player development and making talented players into better players and taking them from Matthews to SG Ball to U20s to hopefully NRL.

"Making the finals is great but both junior rep comps have 18 teams and only a season of nine rounds so the draw can be friendly or a bit rough, you just don't know.

"But developing players along the pathway into better players is a driving force for me and Ben [Hornby] in overseeing the junior program."

This season, Steelers legend Shaun Timmins will make his coaching debut as assistant to Shane Millard with the Steelers' SG Ball side; Ryan Powell is head coach of the Harold Matthews Cup team.

Both Steelers teams are away to Central Coast in Saturday's season opener.

St George's Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams are away to Cronulla in round one. The Steelers are away to St George in round two.

"Central Coast have traditionally been one of the weaker junior teams but last year improved a lot and we're going to have to play well to start with a win in each competition," Young said.

"Hopefully we can get a couple of wins ahead of facing St George."

The Steelers' home games are against: Canberra (March 1); North Sydney (March 8); Western Sydney Academy (March 22) and Western Suburbs on April 5.

The other round one games in the Harold Matthews and SG Ball cups on Saturday are [host sides first] Western Sydney Academy v South West Sydney Academy; North Sydney v Balmain; Manly v Souths; Parramatta v Penrith; Newcastle v Western Suburbs and Melbourne v Roosters.

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