Jason Nightingale in action against Penrith in Round 1.

Derby rivalry alive: Nightingale

Jason Nightingale says the local derby feeling will never go away when his St George Illawarra Dragons take on the Cronulla Sharks despite the veteran winger being the second most capped player in the fixture on Saturday night.

Preparing for his 19th appearance in the match-up – only Cronulla captain Paul Gallen has more – the 30-year-old believes the heated rivalry between the two sides makes the contest anyone's game regardless of where each team sits on the ladder.

The Dragons stalwart has not missed the local fixture since Round 3, 2009 and even admitted to supporting the Sharks as a youngster before the Red V came calling.

"We all grew up going to those games all the time… sometimes even wearing a Sharks jersey," Nightingale said. 

"But as soon as you play junior reps as a teenager at the Dragons and we turned up there, you [started to] support the Dragons.

"That rivalry is still as strong as ever and I think the best part about it is we are quite often at different ends of the competition table one way or the other and come game time, that never matters.

"I don't think form has a lot to do with local derbies and that's what's exciting for us and fans.

"It's whoever turns up on the day and that's what we're all excited about. 

"I remember being first in the competition and we turn up against the Sharks not going so well and got beat, then vice versa we did the same at the backend of last year to them."

Last week's loss to the Eels was a game to forget for the Dragons, but Nightingale said the players had quickly moved on and turn their attention to a Sharks side that piled on 42 points against the Raiders in Canberra. 

"We've reviewed and gone past last week's game," Nightingale said.

"We need to change the start of our game… I thought it really affected us.

"It wasn't up to standard and we found ourselves playing catch up too early in the game.

"I don't think we are too good at catch-up footy and no one is better playing from behind.

"Stats show going in down at half-time, the odds are already against you so it's not just specifically us but every side in the competition.

"The more you can play controlled, within your game plan and not having to go outside of that, the less errors you make.

"It's about being more resilient and reacting more positively to errors."

The Sharks this weekend could welcome back Australian international Valentine Holmes from a hamstring injury, which would likely see utility Jack Bird move back to centre at the expense of Kurt Capewell.

"It's good to be back and I can't wait for the local derby," Holmes told Sharks TV.

"To sit out six weeks and watch the boys go well last week was tough but in the end I was pretty happy with how they went. 

"I've been training all week with the boys and haven't pulled out once.

"It's always a tough game and it would be awesome to get the blue crew behind us and get a sell-out crowd."