St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor is adamant there will be no charity from his Dragons side against South Sydney on Sunday.
The Dragons are looking to win back the Charity Shield, the annual pre-season trophy, for the first time since 2012 at ANZ Stadium as a timely boost heading into the new season.
There is a different mindset around the match this season. In previous years the Charity Shield has been St George Illawarra’s first trial match and more a chance to blow out the cobwebs. This season it will be their final preparation for their round one clash against Penrith.
McGregor is treating the match as such, with the side named for the Charity Shield likely to run out at UOW Jubilee Oval in the season opener in a fortnight’s time.
The Dragons copped plenty of criticism last season but McGregor, who is in the last year of his contract, has taken it on board and told the Leader fans will see a different team in the red v this season.
“A lot of things have changed. There’s been staff change, there’s been roster change. There’s certainly been a different philosophy about how we’re going to play. The main focus... everyone is still talking about it is how we attacked [last year],” he said.
“I’ll be totally honest with you we were very rigid in the way we played. We’re going to go away from that. Simplicity is a big thing in the way we’re playing, we play a power game. [We’ve got a] good-sized forward pack with good experience. And the freedom to play, that’s the most important thing, to take away a fair bit of noise and just let the boys concentrate on going out there and playing more instinctively.
“Obviously the vision we’ve come up with, the shared vision with the players, the philosophy, is about certainly playing with the freedom of playing what’s in front [of them]. Last year our style didn’t suit some of our players and certainly our approach this year is totally different to that.”
Winger Jason Nightingale, who will play his first game of the pre-season, said the team would use the game to build confidence ahead of the new season.
“I think it’s also a chance to test the occasion. That’s another thing that is parallel with a first grade game, the atmosphere. The occasion that’s created simulates a first grade round one [game] as close as you want,” he said.
“And obviously add to that the rivalry we’ve had with South Sydney for a lot of years. It does feel a lot more than [just] a trial game.”
St George Illawarra will use the Charity Shield match, now in its 35th year, to raise money for St George Public Hospital at Kogarah as well as Wollongong Public Hospital and the St George Foundation.
Kick off is at 4pm.