McGregor endorses Young as replacement

Outgoing coach Paul McGregor says Dean Young (pic) should be his successor at St George Illawarra.
Outgoing coach Paul McGregor says Dean Young (pic) should be his successor at St George Illawarra.

Dean Young has emerged as the early frontrunner to be St George Illawarra's next coach after receiving the endorsement of departing mentor Paul McGregor.

Young will take over the Dragons after Friday night's clash with Parramatta, with Craig Fitzgibbon and Jason Ryles the other likely candidates.

The Dragons have also been linked to Wayne Bennett this year, but he does still have another year left on his deal at South Sydney before he hands over to Jason Demetriou.

Young will be given a dream run to prove himself, with the Dragons up against the struggling Brisbane, Gold Coast and North Queensland in the next three weeks.

Chief executive Ryan Webb said on Thursday the Dragons expected to give themselves until the end of the season to make a decision.

But when asked who should replace him, McGregor was unequivocal in his support: "They have a very good one here.

"After this week he's got six weeks. Dean is as hard of a worker as anyone I have had on my staff.

"He's loyal to the club, has bled for the club and will only do good things for the club. He's a very smart coach.

"I gave him and Benny Hornby their opportunities back in 2014. Dean is going to be a very good coach."

The club's other assistant, Shane Flanagan, remains under a ban from a head-coaching role by the NRL until the end of 2021.

Webb said on Thursday the club would not approach the league on his behalf, but would instead leave that to Flanagan and his manager if they wanted to.

Fitzgibbon is another likely candidate, given he still lives in the Illawarra and is highly regarded as one of the game's best coaches in waiting.

However, he has knocked back recent approaches from other clubs including Newcastle and the Warriors to honour his contract with the Sydney Roosters that ends in 2021.

Former Dragon Ryles will be another name, but he has so far been insistent he wants to honour his commitment to assist Eddie Jones in English rugby next year.

Anthony Griffin is among a host of other free-agent coaches who could be interested.

"We want to go through a fair process and I'd say we'll give ourselves until the end of the season which is six or seven weeks," Webb said.

"That gives the new coach to come in after the break.

"My discussion to Dean was to support Mary for the next few days.

"I think once the process gets put in place around the new coach and he wants to throw his hat in the ring and then."

Meanwhile Young's dad Craig will step down from the Dragons board while the decision is ongoing.

Webb also indicated the club would go down the path of a general manager of football to sit above the coach, but that would likely be employed from within.

"When I worked at the Wests Tigers I thought it kept communication to the board really strong as it came through that GM of football," Webb said.

"I think Ben Haran could actually step into the role. I don't think we need to do any major changes."

Australian Associated Press