Focus on Charity Shield after Nines fizzer

RUGBY LEAGUE

Predicatably, Brett Morris and Josh Dugan were St George Illawarra’s star turns yet even they couldn’t prevent the Dragons’ Auckland Nines campaign from fizzling before it really got under way.

Crushed in their opening two matches against the Rabbitohs (23-4) and Panthers (23-8) in the shortened format, Steve Price’s side saved face with a final-day win over the Storm.

Morris’ late try in the 14-10 win over Melbourne – who didn’t even bother asking Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk or Billy Slater to board a plane across the ditch – in reality tells very little about the hurly-burly starting next month.

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Apart from the fact the Dragons wouldn’t have snuck away from the inaugural tournament with the ignominy as the only side without a win.

The real measure of the weekend? Probably when Price poked his head into the casualty ward and saw very little to concern him.

As other NRL heavyweights counted the cost of an energy-sapping 48 hours, perhaps the Dragons’ stunted involvement will be all that really matters in round one.

Dylan Farrell copped a whack across the face from the Storm’s Richie Kennar via a late swinging arm, enough for the Melbourne man to be ruled out of one match in next year’s tournament.

A groggy Farrell ended up being the Red V’s only concern as he stumbled from the Eden Park cauldron with the help of Dragons medical staff.

He might not remember much about the tournament. Others aren’t likely to forget in a hurry.

‘‘I walked in and got butterflies and haven’t felt that for a while,’’ Dragons lock Trent Merrin said. ‘‘There’s a few characters out there in the crowd and everyone is here to have fun.’’

The first day wipe-out may have blunted that experience but at least a few new recruits got their competitive juices flowing for the first time in new colours.

Summer signing Michael Witt looked lively on his return to New Zealand while Sam Williams got involved, too, as the pair shared playmaking duties.

‘‘It’s a different game and if the ball doesn’t come to you...you certainly don’t have time to go looking for it,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It’s exciting to be out there and a part of it all.’’

The real stuff will be set in motion with the Charity Shield clash at WIN Stadium this Saturday. The Dragons will be hoping that doesn’t follow the same path as last year.

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