Mary dismisses unrest as Luke to exit

Matt Encarnacion
Isaac Luke (left) has requested a release from the Dragons

Issac Luke is set to depart St George Illawarra immediately, but embattled coach Paul McGregor has dismissed speculation of player unrest at the NRL club.

Luke was named to face Cronulla on Sunday but is all but certain to be granted an immediate release to join an injury-hit Brisbane side as soon as this week.

McGregor confirmed Luke approached the club two weeks ago about a release to move into the sunshine state, where he has family.

McGregor denied suggestions Luke was disgruntled with the club, who have yet to win a game this season and sit at the bottom of the ladder.

"Issac (came to see me)... a couple of weeks ago about a few matters. Nothing to do with mine and his relationship," McGregor said on Saturday.

"You can talk to him about that. It's about some other things and he asked for a release two weeks ago. And we spoke about it again this week.

"Now it's up to the football management."

The Dragons legend also hit out at rumours that a number of players want out at the club, including youngsters Tristan Sailor, Jason Saab and Matt Dufty.

He said there hasn't been any discussion about Dufty leaving, while Sailor has been edging closer to first grade selection since the coronavirus lockdown.

"I've known Tristan a lot longer than I've been a first grade coach and he's been in the first grade system," McGregor said.

"He spoke to me, and there's definitely no truth in that.

"Tristan's been training very well the last two weeks and is in conversation around playing this weekend. He needed to pick up his training and he has.

"And the last one, around Jason, I spoke to Jason. Jason could speak to you, we've got a very good relationship. There's nothing between me and him.

"Am I concerned about the conversation that's happening outside about players leaving? The answer is no because there's not much truth in it."

Sunday's local derby at Campbelltown Stadium will be the first since McGregor narrowly avoided the sack following an emergency board meeting on Tuesday.

There have been reports he only has another month to turn their fortunes around, however he insists the board gave him no such timeline.

Nor was their decision to retain him down to saving money.

"That wasn't raised. I asked that question to the board, and there was no timeframe, and nothing about cost," he said.

"I'm always thankful for the support, standing with me, trust and belief they have in me, and to help not interfere.

"(I) had a good conversation with the board once they made the decision.

"It's just about now getting on and expecting to win on the weekend."

McGregor revealed under-fire star Ben Hunt could play some hooker against the Sharks, who welcome back Andrew Fifita and Chad Townsend from injury.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Of the 44 matches played between these two sides, the Dragons lead the ledger 22 wins to the Sharks' 21, with one draw.

* This is the first time in 13 years St George Illawarra have occupied last spot, while the joint venture has also never started a season with five straight losses.