McGregor's results could put him at front of Dragons coaching queue

RUGBY LEAGUE

Dragons coach Paul McGregor watches over his players at training. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Dragons coach Paul McGregor watches over his players at training. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Paul McGregor still refuses to put his hand up to coach St George Illawarra next season but that doesn't mean that he isn't interested in the job.

"I have never said that," McGregor said during an interview on Friday in which the 46-year-old revealed he had gone to bed at 12.10am the night before and woke at 4.40am to finish preparing video footage and tip sheets for the Dragons players ahead of Saturday's match against North Queensland at WIN Jubilee Stadium.

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St George Illawarra officials are understood to have drawn up a list headed by Newcastle's Wayne Bennett that includes virtually anyone with NRL coaching experience that may be available, such as Tim Sheens, Neil Henry and Brian Smith, and have begun assessing the potential candidates.

No-one has yet approached McGregor but if the Dragons can win eight of their 14 matches under his control it would be almost impossible for the club to ignore the claims of a junior product who co-captained St George Illawarra to a grand final in the inaugural year of the joint venture and has done a lengthy apprenticeship in the local competition and lower grades.

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"It's not up to me to make up my mind about whether I want the job or not," McGregor said. "I will just worry about what I can control so I am happy just to let it roll at the moment and play my role within the football club for now."

Those who know McGregor well liken the former Test centre's unwillingness to publicly declare his coaching ambitions to his reluctance to accept annual approaches from the Steelers to leave his mates in the local Illawarra competition and play at the elite level until the age of 22.

After belatedly signing on just weeks before the 1991 premiership began, McGregor played his only reserve grade match before being promoted by Illawarra coach Graham Murray and was chosen that season to play for Country against City.

"I had never been in a gym in my life so I was under-prepared physically and didn't want to put myself in a position where I might fail," he recalls.

After a decade with the Steelers and Dragons followed by a seven-year stint with the club as strength and conditioning coach, three premiership winning seasons in charge of Wests Devils and two years with Illawarra Cutters, McGregor also took some convincing to become Steve Price's assistant at the start of this season.

When Price was sacked five weeks ago, McGregor again deliberated before agreeing to take over.

‘‘Once I say yes to something I am fully committed,’’ he said. ‘‘I just needed to take a few things into consideration - one was Steve and how comfortable he was, the situation with my family and I have a business with Shane Lee - the ex-footballer, not the cricketer - where we have 25 staff. 

‘‘I spoke to Steve and I spoke to my family and here I am today because I made that decision purely on what I thought I could bring to the playing group.’’

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