Season starts with Charity Shield: Dugan
St George Illawarra's Auckland Nines captain Josh Dugan says while he enjoys the free-flowing style of the Nines, the traditional Charity Shield fixture against old rivals South Sydney signals the start of the season proper, with the Red V desperate to start on a positive note.
"I love being a part of the Charity Shield. As a kid growing up I was watching it all the time and it means a lot to the fans," said Dugan, who has appeared in both Charity Shield fixtures since joining the club midway through 2013.
The fact the Dragons have lost both of those only makes him more desperate to start the season with a win.
"The boys definitely take it seriously and it's something we want to win. There is a shield, there is a trophy for it so to get that at the start of the year it'd be something special to start off on a confident note," he said.
"It's just one of those games where you get your first taste of real footy. Nines is a bit of a different game so while it's still footy I think the 13-a-side Charity Shield is the one you really look forward to and the one where you start your preparation for the year."
The 25-year-old made his captaincy debut at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines as he continues to put his troubled younger years behind him and establish himself as a real on-field leader at the Dragons.
"The biggest thing I've learned is you can't take anything for granted," Dugan said.
"Once you do have those lessons you've got to learn from them and make amends and that's what I've done. You have a stuff-up, you get a kick up the bum, you've got to rectify that or you'll keep stuffing up and you can be on the scrapheap just like that.
"For me, getting that second chance was something I didn't want to let go, and didn't want to let down anyone that had backed me the whole way."
The South Sydney Rabbitohs and St George Illawarra Dragons will face off in the 32nd Charity Shield at ANZ Stadium on Saturday 13 February.