McGregor unfazed by NRL coaching silly season

FOCUSED: Paul McGregor calls the shots at Dragons training. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

FOCUSED: Paul McGregor calls the shots at Dragons training. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has absolutely no fears over his immediate future after his name was tossed into the NRL coaches sorting hat this week.

It comes as 2010 premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett continues to be linked to a return to the Dragons as his own contract soap opera plays out in Brisbane.

Broncos CEO Paul White confirmed on Thursday that Bennett, who is contracted until the end of next season, will see out his current deal but it appears all but certain he won’t coach the club beyond 2019.

It leaves open the possibility that he could depart at season’s end, with the Dragons reportedly one of his preferred destinations.

Bennett’s sudden availability and previous links to the Dragons has drawn McGregor into the wider NRL coaching rigmarole that shifted into overdrive with the sacking of Penrith coach Anthony Griffin two weeks ago.

The Dragons run of five losses from their past six matches have put McGregor under the microscope, despite still being in the hunt for a top four finish, but he said he hasn’t felt the need to seek any assurances from the club over the final year of his deal.

“No not at all, I’ve got a year to fulfill on my contract and I’m here to do that,” McGregor said on Friday.

“I’m comfortable, we’ve only had one week out of the top four [this season]. It’s taken three years for us to build this team and it’s a team I want to coach and a team I enjoy coaching. 

“I’ve got a coaching staff and a performance staff we’ve built over that period of time as well and we’ve got a football team here we think can win the competition.

“Nothing changes for me from day to day except going in and doing my best for the team to go out and perform.” 

It’s a distraction the club doesn’t need as they wrestle with a late-season slump but McGregor said he’s not all surprised by the conjecture, that’s also surrounded Trent Barrett, Ivan Cleary and Anthony Siebold, in one of the most turbulent times for coaches in recent memory.

“It’s character building isn’t it?” McGregor joked.

“It’s professional sport, obviously [talk] started a couple of weeks ago when Hook [Griffin] got sacked from Penrith. When people are off-contract and names come up, or if a team dips in form, people talk about it. It’s something to talk about it.

“It’s strange at times but it is what it is. It’s nothing I can control and I’ve never given any energy to things I can’t control. There’s distractions for players if anyone needs to get hit with a stick it’s me not the players.

“The players need to be left alone to do what they do which is go out there and play footy. I’m the leader of them so, criticism can come at me, but I’d prefer everyone to back off the players a bit.” 

After slumping to a 40-4 loss to the 15th-placed Eels last week, the Dragons could drop as low as seventh with a loss to the Tigers at Leichardt Oval on Saturday.

That prospect would really turn the heat up on the club but McGregor said the pressure runs both ways as the Tigers look to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

“They’re playing for their season so, when you talk about pressure, there’s pressure on them as well,’ McGregor said.

“We had some pretty confronting video after our last game. We’re not isolating one person, we’ve all been inconsistent in the past month and our standards we’ve set we haven’t lived up to over the last month.

“That’s the past, we’ve got to live in the now and look to [Saturday’s] game as the first step in the right direction.”