RUGBY LEAGUE - NSW CUP
The Illawarra Cutters will be flush with St George Illawarra-contracted players when the NSW Cup season begins in earnest for Ian Millward's side against the Wests Tigers on Saturday.
No less than nine members of the Dragons full-time NRL squad will be in action at WIN Stadium for the Cutters, who missed the finals by a single point last season.
Sam Williams will wear the No 6 jersey, steering a backline featuring Charly Runciman, Nathan Green, Peter Mata'utia and Yaw Kiti Glymin.
Fringe first graders Matt Groat, Josh Ailaomai, Will Matthews and Willie Mataka feature in a beefed-up Cutters forward pack.
"I've been at NRL training as well as taking Cutters training and everyone is having a really good time," Millward said, who is back after a successful career in England.
"The biggest thing I've seen is the attitude of both camps. Everyone's been working hard together and the Dragons players have been helping the local boys strive to reach their potential."
NSW Country prop Rory O'Brien is a notable omission against the Tigers.
The Illawarra-based side enjoyed a late-season success over the black and golds in 2013 as the Tigers squeaked into the finals.
Millward, who admits he's never seen a NSW Cup game before and only laid eyes on some of his players for the first time in November, was unsure of what to expect from Paul Fletcher's side.
"We've spent a lot of time on ourselves," he said. "They'll be strong because at this time of year not a lot of sides have injuries.
"If there are it might only be one or two.
"We're all trying to be as fit as possible at the start of the season and then it's just a matter of getting to the finish line."
The Cutters performed strongly in their trials to date against the North Sydney Bears and Canterbury Bulldogs before they disposed of a combined Corrimal-Woden Valley outfit last week.