Dragons captain Ben Creagh believes a tough first-up assignment against competition high-flyers South Sydney is perfect for his new-look side heading into the NRL season.
While most preseason trials feature licorice allsorts teams meandering to uninspiring conclusions, the Dragons and Rabbitohs are full-strength for Saturday's Charity Shield clash at WIN Stadium.
The star-studded Rabbitohs promise to be a formidable test for the new side Steve Price believes can lift the Dragons back into finals contention and Creagh is excited by the challenge.
‘‘It’s perfect for us that we get the chance to play against a side like the Rabbitohs because they’re coached very well, they’re a disciplined side in attack and defence and we’re going to have to be at our best to play well against them,’’ Creagh said.
‘‘We’ve got to put a full 80 minutes together of good, consistent, tough footy. That’s what we’ve got to get better at this year and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.’’
The skipper said the Dragons side for round one of the NRL season will resemble very closely the one that runs out tomorrow evening.
‘‘We’re preparing for round one and so are they, so it’s going to be high intensity and high quality as well,’’ Creagh said.
‘‘We will be playing with a lot of players but we’ll be starting with our best side for the first 40 minutes. It’s the last trial match of the year so it’s going to be full on.’’
It will be Creagh’s first hit-out for 2014 after he was rested from the club’s trial against a combined Illawarra Cutters/Mudgee Dragons and the Auckland Nines as he nursed niggling injuries.
‘‘I’m very excited to get out there,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s been a long preseason for me, so it’ll be nice to finally get a game under my belt.
‘‘It’s a great game to come back for and I’m looking forward to blowing a few cobwebs out and getting a bit of match fitness before the start of the year.’’
Creagh was not concerned by the club’s performance at the Auckland Nines and said Saturday’s match will be a far better measuring stick for his side.
The Dragons avoided the embarrassment of finishing the helter skelter competition as the only side without a win after a final-day victory over Melbourne.
‘‘I don’t believe you can read too much into the Nines,’’ he said.
‘‘As we saw it’s a totally different game, there’s different game plans and different players shine in that type of game.
‘‘Thirteen-a-side is a totally different story.’’
Meanwhile, Dragons centre Gerard Beale has been ruled out of Saturday night’s Charity Shield with a jaw injury.
Young gun Charly Runciman will replace him in the starting line-up after Beale was yesterday ruled out of the match by Dragons medical staff.
Beale was named at centre in Steve Price’s 19-man squad for the match, but aggravated the injury playing for the Illawarra Cutters last weekend while his Dragons teammates were at the Auckland Nines.
It is a disappointing setback for the former Brisbane Bronco, who initially came to the Dragons as a long-term replacement for premiership-winning fullback Darius Boyd.
An ACL tear ended Beale’s 2013 season after just five games and, with the club’s acquisition of NSW origin fullback Josh Dugan, the 23-year-old is looking to cement his place in the centres. He has already undergone three knee reconstructions.
Beale is expected to be fit for the Dragons’ round-one match with the Wests Tigers.