Dragons “All Stars” to kick off-season as rivals
The Dragons have a “massive target” on their head say premiership-winning St George-Illawarra team-mates Ben Creagh and Jamie Soward who could kickstart their 2011 pre-season as friends and foes in the space of 24 hours. <br><br> The Dragons have a busy pre-season schedule with coach Wayne Bennett and some players involved with the 2011 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match at the Gold Coast on February 12 and their annual Charity Shield trial game against the Rabbitohs in Sydney 24 hours later. The World Club Challenge is two weeks later. <br><br> While Soward has already secured a spot in the Indigenous All Stars team, Creagh, who currently leads the public polling for the Dragons forward spot, is yet to confirm his first start in the event which was held for the first time this year. <br><br> The first round of public voting closes on Tuesday (Dec 28) and Creagh has secured over 6000 votes, to be ahead of Dean Young and Nathan Fien; while Darius Boyd leads the backs polling from Brett Morris and Mark Gasnier. <br><br> A shortlist of 64 players will be announced next week – the top two forwards and backs from each club – and Bennett will then indicate which positions he wants each of the players to be considered for, as well as outlining the make-up of the bench positions. <br><br> In stage two of the NRL All Stars voting, starting January 3, the public will be given the challenge of selecting one player from each of the 16 NRL clubs from the 64-man shortlist. <br><br> “It was a big success last year,” said Creagh. “It was a good game to watch. Putting all the best players together is a great concept. <br><br> “It would be something special … something to remember, to play in a game like that. <br><br> “Wayne (Bennett) hasn’t said much about it yet. He has just been focusing on Dragons stuff. <br><br> “Winning the premiership takes the pressure off in one respect … but then you become the team everyone wants to beat.” <br><br> Soward agreed, saying the Dragons “have a massive target on our heads” now as they prepare to win back-to-back premierships. <br><br> “Everyone is looking forward to the challenge … he (Bennett) knows how to win back-to-back titles,” Soward said. <br><br> The Dragons have a heavy pre-season load, but Soward said they are excited rather than daunted by the challenge of three big games in the space of a fortnight – All Stars (Feb 12), Charity Shield (Feb 13) and World Club Challenge in England (Feb 27). <br><br> Soward played in the inaugural All Stars game this year and believes it has the potential to be turned into an “extravaganza” with competitions for a wide range of activities such as best goalkicker, fastest and strongest players. <br><br> “The All Stars is a great concept which the Indigenous and Aboriginal Australians are very proud of,” he said. <br><br> “Personally I think it has the potential to grow bigger and turn it into an extravaganza … whose the fastest; whose the strongest; whose the best …” <br><br> To vote, <a href="http://www.nrl.com/repgames/allstarsvoting/tabid/10972/default.aspx"> click here.</a> <br><br> <b>Overview of NRL All Stars voting:</b> <br> - The first player to be chosen in the NRL All Stars team will be the player who scores the highest number of overall votes in a position. <br> - Once a player from one club is placed in the team, no other player from that club can be chosen. <br> - If a player withdraws from the team due to injury, he will be replaced by someone from the bench. <br> - The open bench spot will then be replaced by someone from the injured player’s club, with the new player having recorded the second highest number of votes from that club, either as a forward, back or utility, depending on the position needed for the bench. <br><br> Rugby League fans are also being reminded to secure their tickets for the 2011 Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars, with about 2000 tickets remaining. <br><br> Tickets are available through Ticketek outlets, on 132 849 or <a href="http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=ALLSTARS11"> click here.</a> <br><br> New Zealand customers can call 0800 842 538 or +61 132 849.