Paul McGregor should be long-term Dragons coach: Benji Marshall

RUGBY LEAGUE

Dragons coach Paul McGregor at training. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Dragons coach Paul McGregor at training. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Follow us on Facebook

Benji Marshall is imploring St George Illawarra to call off the hunt for its new coach, claiming caretaker Paul McGregor could "carry the club through the next 10 years".

Barely a week since McGregor notched his first win as an NRL head coach after taking over from Steve Price mid-season, Marshall stressed that the rookie clipboard-carrier is ready for the role full time.

"I think he's got what it takes to be a great coach and carry this club through the next 10 years," Marshall told the Mercury.

"All the boys respect Mary and he commands that respect from everyone and their excellence at training. All the boys just want to play for him. It's an important part of the game I think.

"I really rate him and I'll put my neck out to say that I'd love to be coached by him the whole time I'm here."

Marshall's public show of support for his new boss came hours after one of the coaches the Dragons reportedly sounded out, Warrington's Tony Smith, signed an extension at the English Super League club until the end of 2016.

The Dragons were also linked with their former premiership-winning coach, Wayne Bennett, and Gold Coast assistant Neil Henry.

And if it wasn't for Price, shown the door after a rocky 2½ year term at the helm of the Dragons, Marshall may not have opted for St George Illawarra after abandoning his rugby union experiment with the Auckland-based Blues.

He signed a 2½ year deal with the Red V last month.

The 29-year-old credited Price with helping rejuvenate his rugby league career despite their brief partnership in Wollongong.

"I called him straight away," Marshall said once news filtered through of his sacking.

"He had his phone off for a few days, but I got in touch with him to thank him for fighting to get me here.

"It's a sad situation and a tough, results-driven business. He [Price] wants the best for the club and I really believe that Mary is the right man for the job [now].

"He's only had a couple of games, but from what I've seen he can be great."

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in the immediate path of Marshall and the Dragons is in-form Penrith pivot Jamie Soward, who credits McGregor with presiding over the most enjoyable fortnight of his career.

Soward spent time with McGregor and the Illawarra Cutters last year before his messy split from the Dragons.

Marshall and halves partner Gareth Widdop will be involved in a fascinating battle with Soward and Panthers halfback Peter Wallace when their two sides clash at the foot of the mountains on Saturday night.

Marshall, who, like Soward, has attracted his fair share of scrutiny over the past couple of years, says the Dragons' former pin-up boy deserves all the success that he's enjoying at Penrith.

"He's just a passionate guy who loves playing footy and some people can't handle that," Marshall said. "I think 'good on him'.

"He's probably played almost 10 years now. Most people don't even make five to eight years.

"He wears his heart on his sleeve, he's playing his hardest and he's reaping the rewards now," Marshall said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop