IT’S the game synonymous with the start of the NRL season – the annual Charity Shield fixture between NRL arch-rivals the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The 33rd edition of the Charity Shield was launched today at Stadium Australia when Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire and emerging No. 9 Cameron McInnes were joined on stage by Dragons assistant coach Dean Young and champion Benji Marshall.
The Rabbitohs will be aiming to secure their fourth-straight Charity Shield title in 2016, having defeated the Dragons in 2013 and 2014, then retaining the Shield following a 12-all draw at Stadium Australia in 2015.
The Dragons hold a 16-11 advantage since the Charity Shield was first played in 1982. There have been five draws including last year.
Tickets to the 33rd annual Charity Shield are on sale now, click here to secure yours.
Proceeds from the match support the major charities of the two clubs – Souths Cares and the St George Foundation.
Rabbitohs head coach Maguire is looking forward to getting the 2016 season underway with the annual Charity Shield match.
“As a group we’re looking forward to playing in the Charity Shield because it will give us an indication where we stand less than a month out from the start of the season proper,” said Maguire.
“Our Members love this game as well and we’re expecting a strong turnout from our Members and supporters to our first 13-a-side game for the year.
“Our focus is getting ready for the season ahead and the Charity Shield is a great way for us to get a look at a number of players and assess where we need to improve in the lead up to round one.
“There’s also a trophy on the line and that trophy has stood for 33 years now, so we’ll be putting our best foot forward come February 13.
“Another positive is the focus we get to bring to the work of Souths Cares, and help them raise funds for the excellent programs they run as well.
“South Cares, and the players as part of that, do so much good work in the community and it’s great to be able to showcase that at the Charity Shield.”
Rabbitohs hooker Cameron McInnes is excited about getting the footy in his hands and getting back out on the field.
“We’ve put in a lot of work in the pre-season and it’s been really enjoyable this year, but there’s nothing like getting out there on the field and playing footy,” McInnes said.
“I grew up in the South Sydney area and I know that this game really signals the start of the footy season.
Dragons star Benji Marshall is excited for the new season and can’t wait to kick it off with the historic Charity Shield clash.
“Everyone is really keen to play some footy and there’s plenty of competition for spots at our Club so we’ll all be doing our best to get things started in the right way for 2016,” said Marshall.
“It’s an honour to play in such a traditional game that means a lot to the fans and the club.
“As a club it’s really good to be involved in something that does so much for charity and it’s something we can all be proud of.”
Assistant coach Dean Young is aware of the importance that the annual fixture offers players leading into the season.
“The boys have had a great offseason and they’re all looking forward to playing in what is such a traditional fixture,” said Young.
“It’ll be our first game with the full squad together so it’s a very important fixture in the build-up to the NRL Season.”