St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has backed Tyson Frizell to fill void left by Jack de Berlin's indefinite suspension.
With de Belin’s ban confirmed on Monday night, Frizell has shifted to the middle of the field, with Jacob Host stepping into the second row for Saturday night's clash with the Cowboys.
While noting the significance of losing a representative forward, McGregor has faith his players will step up.
"Tyson's a versatile player that's played middle third for NSW and Australia" McGregor said. "He's a powerful forward and the more involved in the game he is, the better the team is. He'll handle that role really well.
"We'll make sure we give him an opportunity to rest as well, to get the benefit out of playing him in the middle, because it's only new to him.
"In the trial he was probably our best forward against Souths, and it was the first time he's done it at club level since last year.
"That does open a position for young Jacob Host and Luciano Leilua. They’ve been in our system for three years, they’ve waited for this opportunity, now they’ve got the chance, they’ve got to go out and do it."
While the circumstances may be unique, McGregor likened de Belin's unavailability to an injury or suspension. For McGregor, it's one of those unplanned hurdles that is bound to emerge throughout the season.
Now the situation has been resolved, it's his job to adapt to de Belin's absence and his players' job to perform in their new roles.
"It's like getting an injury in your team, you just get on with it. I'm excited for the players that are coming in and the opportunity that they have.
"It's no different to any other team that has a player suspended or gets an injury early in the season."
The Dragons forward pack is set for a stern challenge to open the season, with a first-up trip to Townsville to face the Cowboys.
Boasting a pack led by Jason Taumalolo and Matt Scott, the Cowboys will likely play a power-based game this season.
McGregor recognised his team is set for a challenge, but he's confident it's one the forward pack is up for.
"That's their strength. With the addition of [Josh] McGuire, a player of his calibre off the interchange, it just goes to show how strong they are through the middle. They do play a power game, flat off the dummy half and anything quick Granville gets out really well.
"It's a challenge for our forwards, but it's not a task that we're not up to, that's for sure."
The Cowboys will be led by new captain Michael Morgan at halfback and will feature former Dragon Nene Macdonald on the wing.
"Morgan's back from not playing a lot of footy last year. Their backline's had a fair bit of change from previous years, with Nene going there and the young centre coming from Brisbane [Jordan Kahu], [Javid] Bowen getting his opportunity on the wing, so they mixed it up a little bit.
"But their forwards are where they lay that platform, so we've got to make sure we more than take that task up."
While you're with us the Illawarra is offering sport readers 20% off an annual digital subscription. Sign up to stay up to date with all the local sports you love for only $3.00 a week. Terms and conditions apply.