You don't care if you're running first. This is about next year. What ...
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Rookie Dragons halfback Lachlan Russell is both surprised and excited to earn a starting spot in the BMW Sydney Charity Shield against Souths this Saturday at Aussie Stadium, while captain Trent Barrett admits to being a little nervous.
For Russell, 20, it will be his first "NRL" game and only his fourth game of rugby league in almost 18 months. He had a knee reconstruction in January last year and played three Premier League games at the end of the 2003 season.
For new father and five-eighth Barrett, 26, it will be his first game in nine months after missing all but five games early in the season because of a broken ankle.
Russell [pic right] will be standing in for regular halfback Brett Firman, who is recovering from a shoulder reconstruction.
"It will be good to see how I'm going," Russell said. "I was a bit surprised to be picked but I am more excited about it than nervous because it gives me an opportunity to show what I can do at that level.
"My goal is to play 4-5 first grade games this year ? anything else is a bonus. I feel like I've got my speed back now and getting to play a few games at the end of last season has given me some confidence."
New Dragons recruit Nathan Long, who has been named at prop in the absence of Jason Ryles, is also excited about playing his first game in nine months after a shoulder reconstruction.
"I am confident in what I have done to get over my injury and feel ready to go," Long said. "I'm really looking forward to this match because of the tradition surrounding it - it's not your everyday trial. Every year that I've watched it, I've wanted to be part of it."
Two other new Dragons recruits, Tony Jensen and Lincoln Withers, will get their first taste of Charity Shield football, coming off the bench.
In the 20 Charity Shield matches contested, St George/St George Illawarra have won 12 and the Rabbitohs five, with three draws. Last year the Dragons won 28-10 in front of almost 21,000 people in Nathan Brown's first outing as coach.
The Charity Shield is the first of two NRL trial matches for the Dragons, who will play the Bulldogs at the Gold Coast on February 28. The Dragons Premier League will play the Comets in Rockhampton QLD on February 21.
2004 BMW SYDNEY CHARITY SHIELD TEAMS
Coach: Nathan Brown
1. Ben HORNBY 2. Nathan BLACKLOCK 3. David HOWELL 4. Matt COOPER 5. Reece SIMMONDS 6. Trent BARRETT (c) 7. Lachlan RUSSELL 8. Luke BAILEY 9. Mark RIDDELL 10. Nathan LONG 11. Dean YOUNG 12. Lance THOMPSON 13. Shaun TIMMINS
14. Ashton SIMS 15. Michael HENDERSON 16. Brent KITE 17. Henry PERENARA 18. Tony JENSEN 22. Lincoln WITHERS
Premier League Coach: Michael Potter
1. Clint GREENSHIELDS 2. Reece WELLINGTON 3. Luke ROBERTS 4. Ben CREAGH 5. Andrew FREW 6. Aaron BEATH 7. Mathew HEAD 8. Wycliff PALU 9. Aaron GORRELL 10. Justin POORE 11. Brian NORRIE 12. Stacey KATU 13. Ryan POWELL (c)
14. Jay VAN MEEGAN 15. Damon NOBLE 16. Shane SHACKLETON 17. Aaron WHEATLEY 18. Trent HEAD 19. Jarrod DYKES 20. Daniel JIMINEZ 21. Shaun VIDITO 22. Ben LINDE 23. Lee BENNETT 24. Wade HUMPHREYS