Thirty-five years ago, legendary St George Dragons front rower Craig Young laced up the boots to play in the first ever Charity Shield.
Fast forward to 2018 and he’ll be frantically watching the annual clash at Mudgee’s Glen Willow on February 24.
“The game has changed and will always change but nothing is different about the rivalry,” Young said.
Young wasn’t just an on-field enforcer between 1977-1988, he was also a NSW police officer by day.
“We all worked, we all had jobs,” he said.
Young is the club’s chairman and is looking forward to overseeing Luciano Leilua’s 2018 campaign after recruiting the young gun in 2014.
“He’s big and powerful but he’s got good ball skills,” he said.
“He’ll get a good run at Mudgee.”
The Young family plays an important part in the Dragons’ club structure as Craig’s son Dean is the first grade forwards coach.
“Dean’s enthusiastic. He’s been there ever since Mary [McGregor] started and he’s a good fit for the role.”
Something that will likely make Dean Young’s job easier is the acquisition of English international prop James Graham who came to the Dragons in the off-season as one of the biggest buys of the year.
If there’s one way people describe Graham, it’s that he’s a ‘competitor’ – Craig’s assessment of him was no different.
Young spoke to The Mudgee Guardian during the Moolarben Celebrity Golf Classic on February 2 and brought another Dragons legend with him.
Shaun Timmins is 12 years removed from his playing days that saw nine NSW Blues and nine Kangaroos caps and is pumped to see the Charity Shield at Mudgee.
“It’s always been the biggest trial and it’s very exciting for us,” Timmmins said.
“It’s a great town and I know we’ve got a lot of support out here with the Mudgee Dragons and I know the players and coaching staff are looking forward to it.”
Paul McGregor’s side won’t be taking any prisoners on February 24 and Timmins predicts the Dragons will be all hands on deck ahead of a crucial 2018 campaign.
“It’s a great hit out and Mary will have the full strength side in,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of new buys in James Graham and Ben Hunt so it will be good to see how they look leading into the season.
“He’ll [Hunt] come to us as a genuine number seven which is quite exciting because it’s something we probably haven’t had in a while.”
The Charity Shield will be played with extra spice this year as Souths dealt the Dragons a crucial blow in round 22 of 2017, defeating the red and whites 26-24 which ultimately prevented them from playing finals footy.
They say pre-season isn’t an accurate indicator of how a team’s going to fare once the year kicks off, but in the case of The Charity Shield a lot will be learned about both the Dragons and Souths.