What does the future hold for Dragons coach Paul McGregor? Picture: Getty Images
What does the future hold for Dragons coach Paul McGregor? Picture: Getty Images

Pay debacle shows Dragons must make call on McGregor

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor doesn't need reminding of what happened the last time his side faced Canterbury.

McGregor was under siege barely a month into the season, speculation rife that his position was on a precipice after some troubling results to start the year.

The game was billed as a battle for survival. The loser was expected to be axed within days, the winner given a stay of execution.

McGregor walked out of the coaches box at fulltime to be greeted by a hail of bullets, first from the hosts of NRL 360 and then from a ravenous media who could sense blood in the water.

To his eternal credit, McGregor kept his cool and insisted he wasn't about to quit on his team. He was in for the long haul.

He still had faith in his players and most importantly himself. He was defiant, seemingly to the bitter end.

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What does the future hold for Dragons coach Paul McGregor? Picture: Getty Images
What does the future hold for Dragons coach Paul McGregor? Picture: Getty Images

Remarkably, five weeks later, McGregor remains at the helm of the Dragons and appears safer than at any point this season.

Pay, meanwhile, is gone, having paid the price for a season in which his side's only win was on that night. The Bulldogs have been savaged by some for the way they dropped the guillotine on Pay on Monday.

The same way the Dragons were savaged by their critics for standing behind their coach at the time.

Time, and whether it brings the success that two of the game's most passionate supporter groups crave, will be the ultimate judge for both clubs.

The Dragons, however, would do well to take heed from the Bulldogs. There are lessons to be learned. Canterbury entered the season unconvinced by their coach and gave him eight to 10 weeks to show the club he deserved an extension.

Each loss inflamed the situation and put the club under more pressure. Barely a week went by without someone calling for the club to provide Pay with some clarity. Behind the scenes, it is understood Pay himself was agitating for an answer.

Dean Pay parted ways with the Bulldogs this week. Picture: Getty Images
Dean Pay parted ways with the Bulldogs this week. Picture: Getty Images

It became suffocating. Ultimately, with the Bulldogs marooned at the bottom of the ladder, they felt they had no choice but to act and Pay was gone.

McGregor has one year remaining on his deal with St George Illawarra.

The Bulldogs' experience would suggest they need to make a decision in the coming off-season at the very latest.

Either McGregor is the man to take them forward or not. If he can't get the job done, the Dragons need to start their search for a replacement.

The last thing St George Illawarra need is to spend the opening weeks of next season being shadowed by speculation over the future of their coach. It wears everyone down. The club, the coach and most importantly, the supporters.

It means the next 11 weeks - potentially longer if the Dragons make the finals - are vital for McGregor as he fights to show he still has a place in the NRL as a head coach. There was a sense after the Bulldogs game that he was fighting a losing battle when it came to his job.

The club has been revitalised. Remarkably, should the Dragons beat the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon, they could finish the weekend in the top eight.

No one saw that coming five weeks ago. Well, no one except McGregor.


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