Dumped St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says the club’s controversial selection panel process was a huge reason behind his decision to walk away from the Dragons.
McGregor, who will coach his last game tomorrow night when the Dragons play Parramatta, was close to tears as he spoke of his plans to visit his seriously ill father once he can leave the club’s biosecurity bubble.
His axing was described as “not surprising” by premiership winning coach Phil Gould, who revealed he warned the club McGregor’s tenure would end badly unless changes were made.
In June the club created a three-man selection panel, comprising McGregor and assistant coaches Shane Flanagan and Dean Young, after losing their first four matches of the season.
A brief resurgence followed, but the club has now lost its last three matches and would likely need a miracle to make the top eight.
“I wasn’t comfortable with it,” McGregor said when asked about the selection panel.
“I think the coach should get the final say on who is getting selected in the team. You have a coaching team and you need to lean on them.
“There should be hard conversation around that, but the coach selects the team.
“It’s hard when you’re owning your result, but not getting the team you want.”
McGregor said he approached the club about changing the selection process, but the board decided the panel should remain.
“I wasn’t dealing with that very well,” McGregor said.
“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.
“That’s what’s brought it to a head.
McGregor was contracted to the club until the end of the 2021 season. He took over from Steve Price in 2014, taking the club to the finals in 2015 and 2018.
He said he’s looking forward to visiting his sick father on the weekend.
“Certainly it’s been tough,” McGregor said.
“My father is seriously ill. He’s been in hospital for quite some time, so I need to go and see him. It’s been in the back of my mind. It’s part of it, it’s not the only thing.”
Chief executive Ryan Webb said it was tough to part ways with McGregor, who captained the club in the 1999 grand final.
“Paul has had a 25-year association with our club and the joint venture’s founding club, the Illawarra Steelers and has shown great passion, integrity, character and a strong work ethic throughout this time,” Webb said.
“He will forever be a part of the Dragons family.”
Dean Young will take over for the rest of 2020. Webb said Young’s father, Craig, excused himself from any board discussions about the coaching role. Craig will take a leave of absence from the board for as long as Dean is the coach.