St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor expects Cronulla captain Paul Gallen to make an early return from injury to run out for the Sharks when the two clubs face off in the southern local derby on Sunday afternoon.
Gallen, who has missed the past four games for Cronulla as well as Game One of the State of Origin series for New South Wales, has been sitting idly on the sideline with a gluteus maximus tear and consequential hip bruising.
With his Sharks having won four of their past six games, it is a timely boost for the club as they prepare to come up against a Dragons team who are currently in a four-way battle for top billing on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder, with McGregor noting there are more dangers involved when it comes to facing Cronulla.
"Without a doubt I do expect [Gallen] to play. It's coming up to his time of the year with Origin and he's a great leader so I'm sure his team needs him at the moment and that he'll roll himself out there to play," McGregor said.
"I think their experienced forward pack, and the fact I think Gal will play, with the likes of Lewis, Fifita and co. have some really big game experience there too so they'll know what they need to bring in the physical clash that it will be in the local derby.
"I think for us though it's about us, which is the most important thing. We can prepare the best we can to get the result, but we respect Cronulla too. I respect every one of their players and they certainly have a lot of good things going for them."
Positively, the Dragons are in great shape to continue their outstanding start to the season following their first bye weekend of the year.
According to McGregor, both Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan are good to line up for the Dragons after playing for the Blues on Wednesday night, with the stars aligning for the Red V to kick on from their last-start win, where they scored a season-high 32 points against the Raiders.
"We have been comfortable with how things have been going with our attack, we obviously build our game around our defence and if you get that right then our attack will follow," McGregor said.
"It's just about winning field position and getting opportunities where once you get them, you're making the correct decisions.
"That's the one thing that's been letting our attack down is our end [of set] decisions but the boys are comfortable with where it's heading and what we're doing so most importantly we have to focus on our defence."