NOBODY fought harder against more relentless opposition than Paul McGregor. For years, McGregor has fought to save his job against late fading season finishes, significant injuries, inconvenient suspensions, hostile media, the Fail Mary fans on the hill, and now, and perhaps finally, rumblings from within.
That might be the deathknell for McGregor.
The Dragons’ board meets next Tuesday and it is expected McGregor will be sacked. Dean Young is expected to be named interim coach.
At some point, the Dragons are also expected to ask the NRL about the appetite for Shane Flanagan to be registered as a head coach again
Flanagan still has one more year to run before the NRL will consider allowing him to resume as a head coach.
McGregor, now in his seventh season, with two finals appearances, has fought for his job for years.
Few have battled so long. Even fewer have survived it.
The terms of battle were so muddy it both helped McGregor and crippled him.
Years ago, Ian Millward was appointed as the director of pathways and list management, effectively taking final say from McGregor over what the roster looks like.
This is not as draconian as it seems. The overriding premise of Millward’s job is to manage the long-term future of the club, from junior reps through to the big contracts at NRL level.
A coach’s priority, by nature of their contract, is to seek short-term success.
They are often at odds but it can work.
It helped McGregor because nobody could be truly sure what percentage of the failings could be attributed to McGregor’s coaching and what percentage to the list he was handed to coach.
This year the Dragons board met and removed sole selection rights from McGregor and put a selection committee in around him, effectively taking control from his own results.
But did it save him? Or stop him from doing his job the way he wanted to do it?
Some, looking at the form of Matt Dufty and Zac Lomax, who were not considered favoured by McGregor, already know their answer.
For others, it was another escape route for McGregor.
Sacking McGregor will not be the fix the Dragons hope for, though. Not unless other changes are made as well.
McGregor’s imminent sacking once again raises more questions than the answers it is intended to provide.
Seven seasons into his stint, the Dragons have no personality that defines them.
What does Dragons football look like?
The problem for Dragons fans is who, at St George Illawarra, can answer that?
Boardrooms are often at odds with their own thinking. Too often they don’t know what their coach looks like, because they don’t know what their own identity is.
Part of the problem nowadays is boards are under as much pressure to survive as the coach.
Fans are impatient for success. They have no time for development and can last about six months into a fiveyear plan.
The modern board realises that if they don’t respond to the fans, though, then the members will set about removing them.
So they are reactive to fan pressure, and often without the understanding to do their job properly. How do you know what you want if you don’t know who you are?
The Warriors are a solid example. A month ago, Nathan Brown knocked back interest from the Warriors for several reasons.
Then Brown was sitting at home watching Todd Payten reveal on NRL360 he had knocked back the job and Brown, at the urging of his wife, called the owner Mark Robinson to offer support.
Brown was working on the simple premise that there were not enough kind words in the NRL and, after the wife’s nudge, called Robinson to sympathise. They spoke for long enough for Robinson to feel inspired.
He offered Brown the job. Within days the club was also confirming Phil Gould had taken a role to set up an academy and fine tune its junior pathways.
Brown and Gould have had a fleeting working relationship, having been involved in coaching NSW.
It is far different from a club set-up, though, and the lines of demarcation might become one of the great substories of future seasons.
What will the Warriors look like under Brown and Gould? Maybe McGregor can tell him.