St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor admits there’s a sense of occasion surrounding Saturday night’s clash against South Sydney at the SCG.
The Dragons will be out to end a five-game slide that has them teetering on the edge of the top eight.
But the proud club will also celebrate St George’s 50-year anniversary of the 1965 grand final against the Rabbitohs, when the Red V claimed its 12th premiership at the historic venue.
“There’s always a nice rivalry there between the two clubs,” McGregor said.
“This is a special occasion, the 50th.
“To go back on such a proud and historic ground, the blokes will go out there and do the jumper proud.”
The Dragons declined an opportunity to acclimatise themselves with the bigger ground this week, but McGregor said his team was well prepared for its enormity.
“We’ve regularly had a game once a year there, so I’d say 90 per cent of the players who are playing tomorrow night have been out there before,” he said.
“They know it’s a different shape than normal, how it looks like there’s more space than there is.
“The ground will be a bit slipperier than normal. They’re across all that.
“It’s important but, we’re still playing the same game. Nothing much changes there.”
Forward Jack de Belin is expected to be the fifth change from the depleted side that went down to Cronulla last week.
Benji Marshall, Tyson Frizell and Joel Thompson all return from injuries, while fullback Josh Dugan comes back after being rested following an absorbing Origin series.
Saturday night’s clash also brings up the 100-game milestone for hooker Mitch Rein.
“You look at the size of Mitch, his (tenacity) and the way he approaches with his courage – it’s really what his game’s around,” McGregor said.
“And he’s developing the other side of it where his decision-making and his ability to play long minutes, and his importance to the side to at times bring line speed.
“It’s a great honour for him to play at the one club. We’d like him to continue to do that. I’m very impressed with what he’s done to get to 100.”
South Sydney enter the clash fresh after last week’s bye, and regain the services of Queensland representative Greg Inglis and prop Tim Grant.
Hooker Issac Luke, however, will miss the game after being suspended one week for a dangerous throw in Round 17.
RUGBY LEAGUE AND THE SCG
*This will be the 1128th match played at the SCG, and St George/St George Illawarra have played the most of them with 358.
*This match is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Grand Final in which Dragons defeated the Rabbitohs 12-8 in front of an all-time SCG rugby league record crowd of 78,056 fans to win their 10th consecutive premiership.
*These sides have played 5 times previously at the SCG, including their first-ever meeting in 1999 which the Rabbitohs won 25-24. Overall the Dragons have the upper hand winning 3 of 5 matches there, but were last start 26-6 losers when they met at the famous old venue early last season.