South Sydney showed they have playmaking depth aplenty, while St George Illawarra will sweat on a knee injury suffered by star fullback Josh Dugan, after the Rabbitohs pounded the Dragons 38-20 in the Charity Shield.
The Rabbitohs scored seven tries to four and piled on 26 unanswered points to lead 38-4, before a Dragons revival in the last quarter of Saturday's clash at WIN Stadium .
It was the biggest team score by either club in the 31 Charity Shield games and Souths captain John Sutton tormented the Dragons with his silky skills.
Moved to halfback in the absence of the injured Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary, Sutton, who was earmarked to play at lock this season, set up several tries.
He linked well with five-eighth Dylan Walker, who suffered a corked ankle.
However coach Michael Maguire was optimistic Walker and Reynolds would be fit for the Thursday week's opening NRL clash with the Roosters, along with fullback Greg Inglis, who came off following a head clash with Dragons prop Dan Hunt early in the second half.
"I thought Dylan and John did really well today, so we've got options there if it doesn't come right," Maguire said.
"But we're expecting that he (Reynolds) should be okay."
It was a far cry from the 2012 preliminary final when Souths lost their way against the Bulldogs after Reynolds hobbled off the field in the first half.
"As a team, we were probably not prepared back then, but if we get an injury, every boy has filled in in certain roles and for every scenario," Souths forward Sam Burgess said.
Englishman Burgess, who refused to talk about his 2015 switch to rugby at the end of the game, also showed his playmaking skills with a great cross-field kick that set up the Rabbitohs' opening try to Beau Champion.
"It was pretty lucky," said Burgess, who joked he had taken over the tactical kicking duties form Reynolds.
His brother George was one of seven different try scorers for Souths and he left Dugan limping after the huge Englishman crashed on top of the fullback in scoring Souths seventh try.
Dragons coach Steve Price said he won't know the extent of the injury till a scan on Monday, though Dugan indicated on Twitter that it could be a lateral ligament strain - putting him in doubt for the early rounds of the season.
Price lamented the Dragons defence in the ruck area and the failure to capitalise on early pressure.
Leeson Ah Mau and Trent Merrin both went close to scoring as the Dragons had the first three sets, with Champion scoring from the Rabbitohs' first foray into enemy territory.
"At the start of the game I thought they were a lot more physical than us, and we just couldn't control that ruck at the start of the game," Price said.
"As we started to warm into the game I thought we got better, but we've got to do that better from the outset."
He was encouraged by the form of Ah Mau, and backs Adam Quinlan, Michael Witt and Peter Mata'utia.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 38 (B Champion B Goodwin L Tuqiri J Picker C McQueen I Luke G Burgess tries B Goodwin 5 goals) St George Illawarra Dragons 20 (P Mata'utia 2 J Knightingale A Quinlan tries G Widdop 2 goals) at WIN Stadium Wollongong. Crowd: 14,633
After their heavy first round loss, where do you expect the NZ Warriors to finish in the NRL regular season?Related story: (See story)