'Wasn't comfortable': Paul McGregor's parting shot at Dragons

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Pictured here, Dragons coach Paul McGregor during a post-match press conference.
Paul McGregor's tenure as Dragons coach ends after Friday night's game against the Eels. Pic: Getty

Paul McGregor's impending exit from the Dragons comes as little surprise for many in the rugby league world, with his future the focus of intense speculation for months.

The 52-year-old admitted on Wednesday that despite being spared the axe earlier in the season, a recent development at the club suggested his time as coach was coming to an end.

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McGregor met with club directors on Wednesday night before agreeing to part ways with the Dragons, with Dean Young to take over in the interim after Friday's clash with Parramatta.

The former Kangaroos centre accepted the club had not lived up to expectations in recent years, with Dragons management insisting his exit was "amicable".

However, it appears the board wasn't convinced the club legend was the right man to lead the team into the future, even though he still had one year left on his contract.

While McGregor has accepted that the Dragons need "a fresh face and new voice," he admits that the writing had been on the wall for some time.

Following their woeful start to the season - in which McGregor was spared the axe by the board - the Dragons took away some of the coach's power by implementing a three-man selection panel.

The almost unheard of scenario in the NRL meant that the head coach did not have the final say on the make-up of his 17-man squad for game day.

Speaking at training on Wednesday, McGregor suggested the move was the beginning of the end of his coaching tenure at the Dragons.

“A couple of weeks ago I spoke to (CEO) Ryan (Webb) about the panel. I wasn’t comfortable with it,” McGregor said.

“I understand the board put it in place to share responsibility around the other coaches but as head coach you need to select your team.

“Ryan took that to the board. It came back that wasn’t going to change.

“It’s really hard to do when you are owning the result but not picking the team you want.

“I wasn’t dealing with that very well.

“When it gets to the stage where you can’t pick a player in the position you feel he’s right to play, it’s probably not the right thing to coach.

Coach still had 15 months left on contract

McGregor is one of the joint-venture's favourite sons, having played for the inaugural side in 1999.

Friday's match will see him equal Nathan Brown as the most capped Dragons coach, but he will now remain stranded alongside him on 151 games.

Seen here, Paul McGregor addresses media after a Dragons game.
Paul McGregor speaks to the media following a Dragons game. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The club will begin its search for a fulltime replacement from next year, with McGregor's exit coming with 15 months still to run on his contract.

McGregor becomes the fourth coach to depart this year, behind Stephen Kearney (Warriors), Paul Green (North Queensland) and Dean Pay (Canterbury).

Under pressure from the start of the season, McGregor survived the sack just two months ago when the Dragons fell to a horror 0-4 start.

The club briefly rebounded, but three recent losses on the trot proved too much.

At the helm since 2014, McGregor took the club to two finals series in 2015 and 2018.

He appeared to have the club headed in the right direction but Jack de Belin's sexual assault charge and Gareth Widdop's exit hurt the Dragons.

They have since struggled to replace De Belin, who has been stood down while awaiting trial, with Corey Norman not proving to be the answer in the halves.

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

"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."

with AAP

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