By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
As they look to reverse a three-game losing streak without seven of their first-choice players, the Dragons aren't taking the Cowboys lightly despite their opposition missing key stars of their own, according to St George Illawarra centre Peter Mata'utia.
With Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan on State of Origin duty for New South Wales, the Dragons will also have to overcome injuries to winger Dylan Farrell and back-rowers Joel Thompson and Tyson Frizell.
Throw in Jack de Belin's mystery illness, Will Matthews's failure to overturn his suspension and the fact fullback Jason Nightingale and prop Rory O'Brien remain in doubt to play on Saturday night, and you can understand where Mata'utia is coming from.
While the Cowboys will be missing Origin quartet Johnathan Thurston, James Tamou, Matt Scott and Michael Morgan, Mata'utia said it won't factor into their preparation.
"We'll play them as if Johnathan Thurston and co. are playing because we aren't looking at them that way. It is a blessing though we get to keep our halves Benji [Marshall] and Gareth [Widdop], they are a great asset to our team," Mata'utia said.
"In saying that we do lose 'Duges' and 'Mez' who are a part of our team as well so it'll be a big challenge for us this week. Big Rory [O'Brien] rolled his ankle [on Wednesday] so he'll be assessed later on.
"I'm not too sure what's going to happen with Jason [Nightingale] either but it might be time for someone like Justin Hunt to come up from NSW Cup and play at the back. He's been getting plenty of man of the match awards so he wouldn't look out of place."
"[de Belin's] been very sick and nobody knows what's wrong with him so hopefully he's getting treated well at hospital and hopefully he can get better soon."
While they have plenty of injuries to overcome this weekend, the Dragons were met with some good news too with St Helens prop Mose Masoe and Melbourne centre Kurt Mann both signing two-year deals, starting in 2016.
Also joining the club are former Titan Mark Ioane and former Raider Luke Page who have made mid-season moves – with the former at short odds to make his debut in the Red V jumper this weekend.
"We have had a few injuries over the last week or so and it's good to have [Ioane and Page] here who have been playing really well in the State Cups so it's good we're adding more depth to our team," Mata'utia said.
"I'm looking forward to having a game with them. They looked to be really welcomed to our team and they didn't put one foot out of place."