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"IT'S game on".
Footy returns this week, St George Illawarra eyeing the first month as a golden opportunity for rugby league redemption.
For the all the setbacks and frustration among the COVID-19 shutdown, the Dragons - at 0-2 - have captain Cameron McInnes as well as forwards Tariq and Korbin Sims back for the showdown on the Central Coast against the Warriors.
And while uncertainty remains around fitness levels and limited preparations as the NRL prepares for kick-off, the revamped Dragons draw presents St George Illawarra pathway back towards the top eight.
In the re-opening month they play the Warriors, Bulldogs, Sharks and Titans - among them, only Cronulla made the finals last year.
All four of their opponents are also winless in the two rounds before the season was suspended, so it's inevitable not all of them will climb out of the hole.
Dates with premiers the Roosters and grand finalists Raiders, who the Dragons play twice, as well as the Rabbitohs, ladder-leading Eels and Storm can wait.
The Dragons - who have been left to stew on defeats to Wests and Penrith, contests where victory was in their grasp - simply must make their chances count in a restructured 20-round season.
Coach Paul McGregor was quick to dismiss the feel-good factor around rugby league return, or the remarkable sacrifice by the New Zealand Warriors, who have been based in Tamworth, away from family and friends for weeks, just to make the re-start a reality.
Under pressure following a disastrous campaign last year, McGregor is demanding instant results.
"It's game on," McGregor said. "We're playing the Warriors first and it's professional, they're going out there and trying to out-work us, but we're going to do exactly the same thing, but a little bit better."
McGregor acknowledged he had a full squad available, with only Jack de Belin, his career in limbo while facing charges of rape, missing from the teamsheet on Saturday.
The Dragons had an intra-club clash on Saturday as part of their preparations, McGregor declaring "four or five" places were up for grabs, as they assess the physical conditions of the players since returning to training.
And as McGregor prepares to make tough selection choices, in contrast, the Warriors are desperate.
The Warriors will be able to sign players on loan after being given the all clear from the NRL.
With the club now based on the NSW Central Coast following a 17-day stay in Tamworth to avoid quarantine restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis, the Warriors are struggling with injuries after utility back Adam Keighran became the third player to join an already full casualty ward earlier this week.
The main worry is in their middle, where Leeson Ah Mau (pectoral), Jazz Tevaga, Bunty Afoa and Jackson Frei (all knees) have all suffered major injuries.
A request to loan players from other Australian clubs was denied last weekend but NRL head of football Graham Annesley confirmed on Saturday an exception had been granted.
"It's initially for up to four weeks until the Commission considers approving the concept for all clubs," Annesley told AAP.