Steve Price has given assurances Matt Cooper will be fit for the round one stoush with world champions Melbourne despite the veteran centre's absence from training yesterday.
Cooper sat out the majority of the Dragons' field work session as he recovered from a calf niggle picked up during the Charity Shield loss to Souths almost a fortnight ago.
Having opted to pair former Storm utility Chase Stanley in the centres with Cooper, Price suggested the club's medical staff were only taking the precautionary route with the 33-year-old.
"He's just got a little bit of a calf [injury] from the Charity Shield," Price said. "That's why we pulled him off early and he'll be training on Thursday.
"He's done really good things in this pre-season, he's got a great level head and is a senior player within our footy club.
"All the guys respect him and I have a huge amount of respect for him also."
While Cooper's spot was not under threat, Price's major selection dilemma of the off-season was settling on Stanley after he duelled with Daniel Vidot throughout summer.
Dan Hunt, who didn't take part in St George Illawarra's two pre-season trials, was also slated to recover from his own calf ailment and will start in the front row alongside Michael Weyman.
Ex-Shark Tyson Frizell won a vote of confidence from Price after earning a starting second row spot alongside skipper Ben Creagh.
Fellow recruit Bronson Harrison is also in line to make his St George Illawarra debut on an extended five-man bench alongside Leeson Ah Mau, Matt Prior, Cameron King and Jack Stockwell.
Jack de Belin and returning Dragon Michael Henderson (Gold Coast) were notable omissions.
Price said competition for spots among the pack was the most fierce he had seen in years.
"There's going to be some disappointed forwards," he said. "That's the position we're in and it's healthy to be in.
"I know what the guys have put in through that pre-season.
"They've worked extremely hard and I'm sure all clubs have."