Jason Taumalolo expects a bruising battle in the Cowboys' season opener against the Dragons (Flickr)
Beware the wounded Dragon.
North Queensland bulldozer Jason Taumalolo says the Cowboys are expecting to face a fired-up and motivated St George Illawarra in their NRL season opener in Townsville next Saturday.
The Dragons have circled the wagons in the wake of the Jack de Belin saga and Taumalolo says Paul McGregor's side will be looking to take out their frustrations on the Cowboys.
"I'm expecting them to turn up all fired up," Taumalolo told AAP.
"They have everything happening off the field, they'll definitely turn up in Townsville ready to blow off some steam.
"I definitely reckon round one will be a physical one.
"Whether Jack plays or not, they'll still be a great team to play against. Definitely a tough game of footy."
The game would ordinarily be billed as a showdown between two of the game's best No.13s in de Belin and Taumalolo.
However it remains to be seen where Taumalolo will line up after he spent time in the trials on the right edge to accommodate star recruit Josh McGuire.
While de Belin's immediate future is up in the air after he was suspended by the NRL under it's new "no fault" stand down rules.
The federal court on Thursday ruled de Belin wasn't technically suspended because the NRL didn't yet have the rules in place.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg says the rules will be signed off on over the next two days, with the case to return to court next Thursday.
"Jack's one of the better locks in the game," Taumalolo said.
"Defensively he's a rock for NSW and the Dragons. He's got that ball-playing skill and that can really change games."
Taumalolo also praised de Belin as one of the best defenders in the league.
"I've felt it a few times, especially coming through the under 20s," Taumalolo said.
"Jack's always been the type of player that cuts players in half."
© AAP 2019