NEW Dragons assistant coach Shane Flanagan knows a thing or two about scrutiny. From premiership-winning highs to career-threatening suspensions, he's spent his fair share of time under the rugby league microscope.
Still, even through the tumult of his time as an NRL head coach, Flanagan can't recall a coach more ruthlessly scrutinised than his new boss Paul McGregor.
Despite being contracted until the end of 2021, McGregor will enter his sixth season under a mountain of pressure after a 15th-placed finish to 2019.
It's prompted changes that saw Flanagan added to McGregor's staff for 2020, a process that's been an eye-opener for the former Sharks coach.
"What I have noticed over the last four-five months since I've known I was going to be taking this role is the pressure that Paul's under as a coach," Flanagan said.
"He's probably under more pressure, personally, than any coach. From what I've seen I feel it's a bit unwarranted. He's working really hard and I think he's got to be given some credit for employing me.
"I've been a head coach, I've won a competition, he could've gone out and got some other coach but, to his credit, he said 'this needs to happen'.
"He's made a decision he feels is in the best interests of the club. Criticism's tough but, in the end, it's about winning footy games. Hopefully this year it's a lot easier than it was last year for him."
It's what Flanagan has been appointed to do after he was cleared to return to the NRL coaching ranks as an assistant in September last year.
It ends a year away from the game after he was de-registered by the NRL for breaching the terms of his 2014 suspension stemming from the Sharks supplements saga.
It was an unquestionably tough time, but Flanagan said a year out of the coaching bubble leaves him feeling fresh ahead of his next challenge.
"It was disappointing, especially the recent [suspension]," Flanagan said.
"Back in 2012 I was suspended over governance, [for] not supervising someone. From a coach's perspective it was something I didn't handle really well.
"More recently to be suspended for communicating with my employer was tough. I understand it, but it was tough. These are the cards we're dealt and I'm quite comfortable with it.
"I spoke to Michael Maguire about it, he won a competition and then he spent two years out of the game. He's come back with Wests Tigers and it gave him the opportunity to freshen up.
"I'd obviously prefer what's happened didn't happen but it has and I've used it to freshen up. I've had a fair while to think about it and I'm looking forward to the new challenge."
That challenge will primarily rest in injecting some defensive steel into the Dragons defence, something that marked his time in charge of the famously gritty Sharks.
"That'll be my first focus, to get some systems and structures in place right across the squad in all different parts of the field and situations," Flanagan said.
"The way I've coached my footy teams is to be aggressive, especially defensively. You've probably seen over the past couple of years with the Sharks.
"They've always been really tough defensive teams so hopefully I can bring some of that to the Dragons."