Illawarra Dragons stars could play in Rockhampton
THE St George Illawarra Dragons have announced five pre-season fixtures across two states and countries in the lead-up to the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
The final trial fixture of the five games will be against the Central Queensland Capras, confirmed for Browne Park on Saturday, February 27, at 6pm.
Early accounts indicate NRL stars Josh Dugan and Benji Marshall could be heading for Rocky.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor described the trial match against the Capras as "an interesting one" because, as the Dragons' last trial, it will be used to get his squad ready for round 1 of the NRL.
As such, it could include some of his stars returning from surgery, including Josh Dugan and Benji Marshall.
"We will be evaluating which players, whether through injury or other circumstances, may need further minutes under their belt ahead of the new season," McGregor said.
"That will determine who travels north closer to the date," he added.
"We have several players including Josh Dugan, Benji Marshall and Will Matthews all coming back from respective injuries around that time, which is why this trial could be important for their individual preparations."
The Dragons will field a combined team of Illawarra Cutters players, as well as rehabilitating first graders or players needing additional minutes ahead of the opening round of the NRL.
"We will look at what players don't participate in earlier trials through injury or suspension, or need extended minutes," McGregor said.
"The trial will be a good one to top up those players who are a bit short of a gallop," he said.
"We will send some good players up there.
"We are hoping Josh might be right by end of January. Benji is coming back from surgery, Will Matthews is coming back from surgery. You've got to manage them, got to make sure they are right for round one.
"So the later we leave them, and the more we get them ready for the games they have to play in the trials, the better they'll perform in round one."
Central Queensland Capras coach Kim Williams said the trial match would be "fantastic" but did not expect many Dragons first-grade players to take part.
"I am certainly not expecting too many of their front line players, because they start the NRL Telstra Premiership the following week," Williams said.
"But if Marshall and Dugan are a chance of playing because they are chasing match fitness, that will be fantastic," he said.
"We would love it if they play.
"But the Dragons have got great depth and they have recruited well.
"So they will have some high-quality players who miss out on their starting 17.
"They will field a very strong team, regardless of Marshall or Dugan."
"It will be a fantastic hit-out for us in the final week before the Intrust Super Cup kicks off."