The Courier-Mail


- Sports · New South Wales · Bradford Bulls · Phil Gould

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.

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