Rugby League


St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor says Warriors 'have bought well'

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While it's just a pre-season match, the St George Illawarra Dragons are relishing an early opportunity to come up against a New Zealand Warriors side they believe is a "top four" contender.

Upon arriving in Nelson for Saturday's final pre-season hit-out against the Warriors, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said he was aware of the tough challenge that awaits them at Trafalgar Park.

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"The Warriors have bought well and certainly have some very good players in there. They have strike across the park while also being big and mobile and certainly physical," McGregor said, acknowledging the Warriors' savvy off-season recruitment of fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Issac Luke.

"This game will represent a very good hit-out for us because everyone has tipped them to be in the top four. Their roster is extremely good and it will give us a good gauge of where we are before we close-off and start the season."

Winger Jason Nightingale echoed his coach's thoughts and said it was a great to get a crack at the Warriors early.

"They've been busy [with their recruitment] and it's great for them to get Roger and Issac back home. It was probably a couple of positions they were looking to improve in and you can't do much better than the recruits they've got," he said.


The Sydney-based NRL side, who lost to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the Charity Shield on Saturday, touched down at Nelson Airport on Monday afternoon, opting for an earlier arrival in order to set up a five day-long camp in the top of the South Island.

The travelling squad of 26 players features many internationals, most notably Kiwis Nightingale, Benji Marshall and Russell Packer, Australia's Ben Creagh and Josh Dugan, and England's Gareth Widdop and Michael Cooper.

The Dragons surprised many to reach the NRL playoffs last year, sneaking in through their eighth place finish. Their finals experience was brief, however, losing 11-10 to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in extra-time.

Dragons squad: Leeson Ah Mau, Euan Aitken, Mike Cooper, Ben Creagh, Jack de Belin, Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Siliva Havili, Drew Hutchison, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Tim Lafai, Dunamis Lui, Kurt Mann, Jake Marketo, Benji Marshall, Peter Mata'utia, Will Matthews, Tyrone McCarthy, Josh McCrone, Taane Milne, Jason Nightingale, Russell Packer, Adam Quinlan, Mitch Rein, Joel Thompson, Gareth Widdop.