If you are a Dragons fan or support the Rabbitohs, you get the jump on all the other teams fans at Aussie Stadium this coming Saturday night, 19th February.
Traditionally played as a benefit for public hospitals, the shield is fiercely contested and gives the football hungry fan an opportunity to whet the appetite with the promise of more to come in the ensuing season.
This year's game gives the Rabbitohs an early chance to reclaim some of the integrity they lost by picking up the wooden spoon in last year's Telstra competition.
Will the new signings be enough to give the Souths fan back the confidence and expectation which was laid low by last years failures? The off season has been one of interest for Souths fans, the news of Lee Hookey's return from a short retirement must gladden the Rabittoh heart. Coupled with his new centre partner, former Rooster Shannon Hegarty, the Rabbitohs' inside backs looks downright fearsome in attack and staunch in front on defence.
Captain Bryan Fletcher will be looking for another exciting year from last year's find, halfback Joe Williams.
A new number 6 replacing the experienced Owen Craigie will offer Souths some new game plays and could well work in their favour as the Dragons will treat them as unknowns.
A solid front row with new signing Peter Cussack and the ever hard working Scott Geddes will test the Dragons' forward strength. St George Illawara on the other hand offer youthful enthusiasm coupled with the match sense of the more experienced players in a very well balanced team who are set to test the Rabbitohs on Saturday night.
Coach Nathan Brown has laid the responsibility of captaincy on his fullback, Ben Hornby's experienced shoulders.
The Dragons forwards are a very tight and experienced unit, although missing their hooker and kicking supremo Mark Riddell, the Dragons pack makes up for his transfer with old hands like Shaun Timmins, Luke Bailey and Justin Poore up front and completed in the 2nd row with the evergreen Lance Thompson. A hugely competent pack and one which knows every trick in the book. An intensely interesting game, one which on paper should fall into the Dragons' hands. But the unknown quantity of Souths' new signings coupled with some new combinations means an upset wouldn't necessarily surprise. The Real Rabbitohs NRL side is: 1) Todd Polglase 2) Luke MacDougall 3) Shannon Hegarty 4) Lee Hookey 5) Brad Watts 6) John Sutton 7) Joe Williams 8) Peter Cusack 9) Shane Walker 10) Scott Geddes 11) Bryan Fletcher (c) 12) Luke Stuart 13) Ashley Harrison
14) Mark Minichiello 15) David Fa�alogo 16) Shane Rigon 17) Brett Kearney 18) Roy Bell 19) Scott Logan 20) Michael Greenfield Coach � Shaun McRae
St George Illawara Dragons 1. Ben HORNBY (c) 2. Colin BEST 3. Brett KELLY 4. Matt COOPER 5. Nick YOUNGQUEST 6. Daniel HOLDSWORTH* 7. Mathew HEAD 8. Luke BAILEY 9. Aaron GORRELL 10. Justin POORE 11. Dean YOUNG 12. Lance THOMPSON 13. Shaun TIMMINS 14. Ashton SIMS 15. Bryan NORRIE 16. Willie MANU 17. Corey PAYNE 18. Lee TE MAARI 20. Clint GREENSHIELDS Coach: Nathan Brown
*Holdsworth out injured. Timmins moves to five eighth.