McGregor falls on Dragons sword

GONE: Paul McGregor will step down from his role as head coach following Friday's clash with Parramatta. Picture: NRL Imagery
GONE: Paul McGregor will step down from his role as head coach following Friday's clash with Parramatta. Picture: NRL Imagery

Dragons coach Paul McGregor has fallen on his sword, stepping down from his position as head coach of the club.

McGregor was due to announce his resignation at his regular weekly media address at midday on Thursday before the story broke.

The club released a statement on Thursday confirming the move.

"The St George Illawarra Dragons and coach Paul McGregor will amicably part ways at the conclusion of Friday's night Round 14 game against the Parramatta Eels," the statement read.

"In dialogue throughout the week regarding the future of the head coach role, McGregor and the club came to the conclusion on Thursday morning that the best course of action was for the 52-year-old to vacate the position."

McGregor said the time was right to make the call.

"I approached the club's chief executive Ryan Webb earlier in the week regarding a number of matters and we eventually came to an agreement that this week will be my last as coach of the Dragons," McGregor said.

"I understand a fresh face and new voice is needed to move the club forward. I hope this decision will provide clarity to the playing group, the entire staff and our passionate Red V members and partners regarding the direction the club is headed.

"After 25 years with the Illawarra Steelers and St George Illawarra as a player, staff member, captain and coach; I viewed my positions as a series of privileges not obligations.

"We haven't met performance expectations over the past 18 months, and I take acceptance of responsibility.

"I had the opportunity to build my team, which we did in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, we have not put that same side on the field since for a number of reasons.

"Dean Young and the team have a fantastic opportunity over the next six weeks to build into the 2021 campaign. Dean deserves this great opportunity to showcase his capabilities in the head coach role."

CEO Ryan Webb said the decision was not an easy one, and also stressed that board member and club great Craig Young will take a leave of absence from the board during his son's interim tenure.

"Paul has had a 25-year association with our club and the joint venture's founding club, the Illawarra Steelers and has shown great passion, integrity, character and a strong work ethic throughout this time. He will forever be a part of the Dragons family," Webb said.

"It's important to note that Craig Young excused himself of any decision making pertinent to Paul's departure and Dean's appointment. As such, for as long as Dean remains coach, Craig will take a voluntary leave of absence from the board.

"The club will now turn its focus to establishing the crucial process of appointing a new head coach for the 2021 season and beyond."

The decision came amid earlier reports that Friday's clash with Parramatta would be his last in charge, with the board to meet and discuss his future on Tuesday.

McGregor ultimately took the call out of their hands, making the call himself after his side faded out of finals contention with last week's loss to the Roosters.

The 52-year-old dodged the axe earlier this year after an 0-4 start. The board backed him and saw a brief return to finals contention before a run of three straight losses saw them bow out.

The club reached the finals in just two of his previous six seasons as head coach, while the club slumped to its worst finish in the joint-venture's history last season.

It came amid a crippling injury toll and the ongoing Jack de Belin saga that is still yet to reach a conclusion.

It was hoped fortunes would turn around this season but it hasn't proven the case, with the club having now managed just eight wins in its last 31 appearances.

McGregor will coach against the Eels on Friday before handing the reins to assistant coach Dean Young in an interim role for the remainder of the season.

Beyond that the search for a longer term coach will begin in earnest, with Shane Flanagan currently on staff but barred from any head coaching role until 2022.

The club has not, as yet, reached out to the NRL with a view to seeing whether that ban can be reduced.

Former Dragons Craig Fitzgibbon and Jason Ryles have also been linked to the role, though they have commitments in 2021 with the Roosters and England Rugby respectively.

McGregor will address the media with CEO Ryan Webb at midday on Thursday.

This story Dragons coach McGregor falls on his sword first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.