RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
When Steve Price didn’t front at Jason Nightingale’s engagement party on Saturday night the playing group sensed something had gone awry for their coach.
While the pressure on Price had been building following a string of heavy losses, his players were caught off guard when they were told of Price’s sacking on Monday.
But what most of the players didn’t know was that 24 hours earlier Price was made to front St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust about the club’s fortunes for the rest of the year and offer a please explain about recent results. He walked away from that meeting believing his two-and-a-half-year coaching stint at the Dragons was over.
It was expected that Price would have survived until at least Monday night when the club’s board met.
The board had all but made their mind up to not take up their one-year option on Price’s services for next year, but pulled the trigger early on his coaching career. They were loath to sack him, though.
Speak to those close to the club and they believe it was the playing group which had stood so firmly behind Price – who had developed many of the Dragons players during his time as a lower-grade coach - that seemed to have given up on him.
His negotiations with Josh Dugan and and Benji Marshall were pivotal to leading them to the club, even if some Dragons powerbrokers were reluctant to sign the pair.
But after undergoing a review of the club’s start to the season last week, the club withdrew support for Price after the players had failed to respond.
Price had labelled his team’s performance against Canterbury as “soft” and held a crisis meeting with his forward pack where they “laid it all on the line” days after that defeat.
The result was a 36-0 thumping at the hands of the Eels, and left the board with little doubt that the players had lost faith in their coach.
The backlash from the club’s supporters had also built pressure on the club to act swiftly.
The players had a training-free day on Monday so McGregor will get his first opportunity to address his playing group on Tuesday.
Doust and football manager Robert Finch called players on Monday morning to tell them Price had been sacked.
As for Price, a proud Dragons man, he went to ground as he ponders where his coaching future may lie