Captains and coaches of each Charity Shield squad visited Glen Willow on Friday afternoon to front to the media for the last time before the big game.
As you’d expect, first year South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold was immediately swamped with queries about Greg Inglis’s status for match.
“Greg’s physically fit. He’s been training for the last few weeks without any restrictions,” Seibold said.
“But he won’t play until he comes to us and says he’s ready to play.
According to Inglis, he’s good to go for Saturday and doesn’t want to be thrown into South’s week one clash without any game time behind him.
“You would rather get 20-30 minutes out in a trial game than going straight into 80 minutes – especially after having a year off,” Inglis said.
“I’ve had a good couple of weeks at training now but the games are totally different.”
One Souths superstar that isn’t in doubt for Saturday is Sam Burgess who came to pre-season training late after a World Cup campaign with England.
“We normally come back from those camps in good shape,” Burgess said.
“You have to be smart and stay fit in your time off but everyone comes back ready and within a week you’re back up to speed.”
Although Burgess wasn’t keen to chat about a potential on-field battle with James Graham, he’s going to be mindful of his English counterpart.
“I won’t be looking out for him but maybe I should be because he could be looking out for me,” Burgess said.
“I don’t want to talk him up too much because I’m playing him tomorrow but he’s a great guy.
“He brings a lot of passion and effort and he sets a good example on training field so he’s certainly going to stiffen their forward pack up.”
St George representatives had their say at Friday’s conference too and coach Paul McGregor was quick to shed some light on his substitution strategy for Saturday.
“Our main forwards will get two stints and the young guys will get on at the back end of the game,” McGregor said.
This plan will go through regardless of the in-game situation and McGregor isn’t planning on letting emotion get in the way of his pre-season structures.
“It’s a great game but at the end of the day it’s a trial match,” he said.
“We need to give minutes to our important people for round one.”
St George Illawarra is fresh off a 24-18 win over Hull FC which pleased McGregor. However, he’s under no illusions about the challenge coming on Saturday.
“We made seven line breaks and scored five tries to three but defensively we need to be better,” he said.
“Last week I thought that we played in good spirit but we didn’t bring that aggressive attitude that we need to play rugby league so we’ll bring it tomorrow night.”
McGregor was happy with what he saw from his spine against Hull and hopes the likes of Widdop and Hunt will build on their outing last week.
“As the game got on, him [Hunt] and Gareth came together really well,” he said.
“Benny’s the seven and he’s got to execute the game plan and Gareth’s very instinctive so they complement each other well.
“It’s just about getting that cohesion. The more they play together, the more they’re going to be comfortable.”
Dragons’ skipper Gareth Widdop had plenty of good things to say about Ben Hunt as well, and relies on the experience he’ll bring to the team this season.
“We’ve had a fair bit of change in the halfback position over the last few years,” Widdop said.
“Just to have stability there will help. The longer you keep your spine together – it helps your team.
Widdop is one of three Englishman who will take the field on Saturday and entering his eighth season in the NRL, has taken some of the younger players such as Matt Dufty under his wing.
“As halves and fullbacks we all need to be on the same page,” he said.
“He’s a good kid and he’s pretty intelligent. I try to help him where I can.”
There’s been an unprecedented buzz throughout Mudgee all week as the Charity Shield fever is running wild, and could reach boiling point by Saturday at 7.30pm.
SEE YOU THERE!