The St George Illawarra Dragons have announced on Friday that Paul McGregor has been appointed head coach of the club for the next three seasons.
Taking over from Steve Price - who was sacked midway through the season - the McGregor deal ends months of doubt and speculation about the future coaching direction of the club.
The Dragons had wanted a reunion with 2010 premiership coach Wayne Bennett, but his move to Brisbane next year has paved the way for McGregor’s appointment.
It’s been a remarkable rise for McGregor, who left the club at the end of 2008 when Bennett arrived.
“It was an absolute honour to play and captain the Dragons and to now be given the opportunity to be the head coach on a full-time basis is an even greater honour,” McGregor said is a statement.
“I am extremely passionate about the club, I understand what this club means to everyone associated with it and a big part of me wanting to take this position is the opportunity for me to give back to the club and game that has given me so much.
“When I first began coaching after retiring from playing, I did this because I felt that I had something to offer and I wanted to share my experience and make players both better players and better people and this will continue to be a guiding principle for me.
“When I took over the role half-way through the year it was definitely in difficult circumstances and despite the concerns that I had at the start of the journey, I have loved every minute of it.
“The response of the players, the challenge and the positive rewards gave me the desire to put my hand up for the role full-time.”
The Dragons had shown some interest in luring Neil Henry, before he took over from John Cartwright at the Titans, while Australian coach Tim Sheens had also been linked to the job.
With his future now secure.McGregor focus is still on the Dragons being part of September action.
“I and the current squad still have a big job in front of us and my focus won’t be taken from this,” McGregor said.
“However, knowing that I will here for the next three years now allows me the opportunity to have a good look at our squad, our juniors, our systems and recruitment and make decisions about what is needed to return our Club to the top of the game.
“We have a young squad that will develop over time and I am really excited about the opportunities over the next three years.’’
Dragons chief executive Peter Doust said the club conducted a thorough review before appointing McGregor.
‘‘We are very pleased to have been able to reach an agreement with Paul McGregor that will see him take on the head coach role full-time from next season,” Doust said in a statement.
“Anyone who knows and speaks with Paul can clearly understand his passion for the Dragons, his honesty and drive to succeed.
“A very detailed process was undertaken with a variety of coaches and scenarios considered but on balance, the Board determined that Paul was the most appropriate fit for our club moving forward.
“Paul’s preparedness to take on the role mid-season and the way he has gone about this is to be respected.
“He has enormous support and respect within the Dragons, particularly from the playing group and also from rugby league coaches, players and administrators outside of the Dragons.’’