The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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In the lead-up to Wednesday night's `Joanne Mackay Helping Hand Cup' at Oki Jubilee Stadium, R2K caught up with Mark Coyne, Jeff Hardy and David Niu for an interview on the Dragons All-Stars clash with the USA.
R2K: David, how long are the Tomahawks in Australia and what teams are you scheduled to play during your visit?
R2K: Jeff, how much training are you doing in the lead-up to the match against the Tomahawks and do you still have a `gimpy'leg, as you described it last year?
Jeff Hardy: Mate, I've got two gimpy legs now and a bad back! I can't seem to beat the ageing process any longer. I've been doing regular speed work sessions chasing four kids around, and weight training once a week taking the wheelie bins up the 30metre driveway on a Wednesday.
R2K: Mark, do you expect the Tomahawks to be a bit tougher than last year with the likes of Alf Duncan and Ian Mortimer in the squad?
R2K: In a nutshell, why should all St.George-Illawarra supporters attend the Joanne Mackay Helping Hand Cup?
Jeff Hardy: The Helping Hand Cup has been put together by the three of us and Robert Stone at the club to help a charity that has been created to honour the former wife of a great Saint George player. We have 30 players in the line up for the Dragons, which shows that the boys are really keen to show Brad their support. The supporters are encouraged to come along and do the same thing. We're hoping to put on a great show for the fans and hope they enjoy seeing a lot of the old boys playing, and meeting some of the current Dragons that will be attending the game. At the same time, they will be helping families that are suffering the same anguish as Brad and Joanne had to during her illness. Breast cancer touches many people in the world, and I think a lot of the St George Illawarra supporters will rise to the occasion on the 18th.
R2K: Is Choc Mundine still a certain starter for the Dragons, and if so, what position is he likely to play?
Jeff Hardy: Choc is down at number 6 for the evening. He is currently holidaying in Hawaii, but has assured me he will be there, not only for this game, but also for anything else we would like to do for charity.
R2K: What other former St.George players will be pulling on the Red V again?
Mark Coyne : We have a pretty good turn out from the 90s teams...Barnhill, Goldthorpe, Gourley, Bradley, Bell, Brunker, Zisti, Donnelly, Walford, Hardy, Collins, Mackay, Mundine, Bartrim, Treacey, Ainscough, McGregor, Potter, Herron and also old timers Graeme Wynn and Harry Eden. Look out for Ricky Walford having a run in the front row!
R2K: How will the match assist the development of rugby league in the USA?
David Niu : It will give the USA boys a chance to be exposed to elite players in Australia. To not only play with them, but to talk, train and learn about Rugby League. This tour will give us great exposure in Australia to help with our vision of setting up a professional league in the States.
R2K: Where can supporters buy the pure St.George polo shirt that commemorates the 2nd `Joanne Mackay Helping Hand Cup'?
Jeff Hardy : The polo shirts will be on sale at the ground on the day. If you'd like to get one before the match, please contact Elite Sportswear on 9501 3650, or email: [email protected]
R2K: What role have you played in organising this match and what other people have assisted you?
Mark Coyne: Not a big role, more so letting some of my former team mates know. Jeff & Anne Hardy and David Niu deserve all the credit. Robert Stone and Danny Robinson from the Club also deserve a big wrap for great support and providing a lot of their resources to the day.
R2K: Are you likely to take the field at the revamped Oki Jubilee Stadium, or are you on the coaching staff for this tour?
R2K: What do you think of the improvements that have taken place at Kogarah since the last USA vs Dragons All-Stars match?
R2K: What improvements would you like to see at Oki Jubilee Stadium in the future?
Mark Coyne: I am pretty happy just for the games to be back at Kogarah. Would be nice to see some permanent lights and more night games at the ground. Perhaps a bronze statue of The Skull to rival King Wally at Suncorp Stadium.
R2K: Is the `Joanne Mackay Helping Hand Cup' likely to happen every year between Saints and the USA at Kogarah?
David Niu : We're two from two so far. And when the NRL finally invites us to the 7s, it should be a certainty every year. I guess it depends on how many of the old boys can hold out! We only planned this game a month or so ago, when Coyney, Jeffro, Stoney and I starting emailing each other about it, but the USA Tomahawks will always be there to help out a charity.
R2K: Where is the after match party and will their be a player's presentation that supporters can attend?
Jeff Hardy: The after match part will start at the ground straight after the match. We will be having a bit of time just meeting the supporters and having a laugh. This will give the kids a chance to get down on the field and say hello like the old days. Nathan Blacklock, Mark Gasnier, Mark Riddell, Lance Thompson, Nathan Brown and other current Dragons will be there as well. Following that, we will all be heading back to the Premiers Lounge at Saints Leagues Club to have a drink. The presentation will occur in the Premiers and we will be staying there for the night.
R2K: How many St.George-Illawarra matches do you get to attend and how do you think the Dragons will fare this year?
Mark Coyne: I probably don't get to as many as I would like but it is more because I have a young family who aren't really at the stage where they would be interested in watching a full game. I'll likely get to a few more this year as they are now a bit older. I think that barring injury the Dragons can make the Top Four. Brownie now has a year under his belt and would of learnt a lot from last year.
Dragons All-Stars vs. USA Tomahawks OKI Jubilee Stadium Date: Wednesday,18th February, 2004 Kick-Off at 6:00pm, Gates Open 4:00pm Entry Cost: Adults $10, Kids $5, kids under 5 free. After Match Presentation: St.George Leagues Raffle: Signed St.George-Illawarra & USA jersey Silent Auction: Mundine training session.