St George Illawarra Dragons touch down in Nelson ahead of Warriors trial match

Benj Marshall and Joel Thompson from the St George Illawarra Dragons NRL team arrive at Nelson Airport before Saturday's match against the Warriors. The St George Illawarra Dragons have arrived into Nelson early ahead of Saturday's preseason match against the New Zealand Warriors, hoping the five-day "bonding" camp in the top of the south will help build better team cohesion ahead of the NRL.

The extended 26-man squad, featuring stars like Benji Marshall and Josh Dugan, and some who won't even take to Trafalgar Park on Saturday, arrived at Nelson Airport to little fanfare on Monday afternoon.

While Saturday's match is just a trial and one final hit-out before the season proper, Dragons coach Paul McGregor said the team will benefit from the five-day camp that is highlighted by a match-up against a Warriors side he believes will make the top four.

"This will be a our last week away for the players to really enjoy each other's company and bond together before we go into round one," McGregor said.

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"A week is a long time away from your family so this will provide that opportunity for the players to become closer and start to learn about each other's habits that little bit more.

"I believe the players will come away from this with a very tight-knit bond."

Dragons winger Jason Nightingale, who spoke highly of the Warriors' offseason recruitment, said the team was looking forward to bringing the NRL buzz to a region that has never experienced first grade rugby league before.

"It's always great to come to these new places. Part of preseason and our game is to be able to share it in new areas and I know there's a few of the Kiwi boys who have been to Nelson before and there's a lot that haven't so we're looking forward to the experience," he said.

7000 tickets have been sold already for Saturday's game, which kicks off at 5pm.

The Warriors are expected to arrive in Nelson later in the week and have a range of school visits planned.

 - Stuff