RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
They may have fallen short in their bid for this year's finals series but Dragons lock Trent Merrin believes a roller-coaster season has laid the foundations for the club's return as a force.
After resurrecting their year after Steve Price's sacking in May, the Dragons's late finals tilt ended with Friday night's 30-22 loss to the Broncos in Brisbane.
Merrin said the players had endured an emotional ride during and after Price's sacking, up until the long-term appointment of McGregor and it took its toll against the Broncos.
"It does take a toll, I'm not going to say it doesn't. You work all preseason with a coach and you work on plays you work on structure and then you lose that in the season and you've got to rebuild again. It's a tough job," Merrin said.
"It's been a real tough year for the Dragons, losing a coach during the season and just trying to rebuild. It was a pretty tough way to go out but in saying that we've come a long way since all that happened at the start of the year and it's something we're happy to build off.
"Mary did a great job with what he had and the way he restructured the team and the respect that he put back into to team was something special and I think we've taken a lot out of that.
"The way we handled everything during the year once we lost the coach and had to rebuild ... it was special to see players lift and pick their form up and fight our way back into the semis [contention].
"It wasn't to be but there's definitely some confidence we can take into next year."
The loss to the Broncos means the Dragons will be finals spectators for the third successive year, but Merrin has seen enough under McGregor to be confident they will emerge from the hard times of recent seasons.
"You need tough times to make tough people and we've certainly been through a few in the last few years but I see light at the end of the tunnel there with Mary," Merrin said.
"It's cemented for three years now and we know what the future is for the club and it's something we're buying into and we've built on that the last few 12 weeks.
"We know we've got a great team here with a lot of great players and there's a lot of respect [for McGregor] there, which is great to be a part of. We're looking to finish strong next week [against Newcastle] and build into next year."