THE door is open for interim Dragons coach Dean Young to stay at the club next season, but it remains to be seen whether or not he'll walk through it.
Young has long been dubbed an NRL coach in waiting and was a genuine shot at his first head coaching gig after stepping as interim boss following the departure of Paul McGregor a month ago.
Young made his pitch to the board along with David Furner and Anthony Griffin last week, with the club ultimately opting for the experience and fresh perspective of the former Broncos and Penrith coach Griffin
Reports suggest the board wanted an outside voice, with fact Young's spent his entire playing and coaching career exclusively at the Dragons counting against him in the race.
The pair have a relationship forged through their time with the Tongan side last year and, while they've discussed the the prospect of Young staying on next year, he's yet to make a call on his future.
"I'm in the coaching game for the long haul, I'm only 36, I've been an assistant coach for six years, so I've still got a lot to learn as head coaches that are 50 years of age do," Young said.
"I view myself as a coach and where my journey goes I'm not too sure, we'll work that out in the future. I have spoken to Hook, we worked together as assistants in the Tongan side at the end of [last] year, we got on great and we've stayed on contact ever since.
"Straight after the decision was made he rang me and said 'what, did you ring me to gloat did you?' but he's indicated that he'd like me to stay around so we'll see where it goes.
"I'm not going to go into too many details about that. I've got a job to do for the remainder of the year, I'm fully committed to this playing group and I'm fully committed to this club."
Despite being rivals in the race for the Dragons job, Young gave Griffin rave reviews prior to the interview process and, a clubman at heart, is happy to see the it in good hands.
"I was a little bit disappointed I missed out because I thought I interviewed quite well and gave it my best shot but I can understand the club's decision in going with more experience," Young said.
"Anthony's been at the Broncos and Penrith and he's got a lot more experience than me at present, he has a winning percentage of around 55 per cent, so I can fully understand the club's decision to go that way.
"I think he's going to do a great job and I think his time out of the game will probably make him a better coach, he would've reviewed what he did at Penrith and the Broncos.
"As a coach you learn every day and every year. I'm sure he's ready for the opportunity to turn this club around and turn it into a force again. I really hope he does."
Young may remain but there'll still be a clean-out, with the club informing Shane Flanagan it won't be taking up the option on the second-year of his contract.
Fellow assistant James Shepherd and head of performance Nathan Pickworth will also part ways with the club as Griffin looks to build the rest of his staff.
While they have spoken, Young said the discussions with Griffin have not turned to the remaining three games or blooding some youngsters with a view to next season. Cody Ramsey will debut for the Dragons against Canberra on Saturday, but Young said he's not about to use the final three games as a test-run for 2021.
"[Griffin] didn't speak to me at all about the remaining three games, he's left me alone, so I wouldn't think he'll be ringing me up and talking about that," Young said.
"I'm not looking to give kids an opportunity because we can't make the semis, I'm there to pick a side to go out and win a game of footy. The reason Cody's got the opportunity is because Mika [Ravalawa's] dropped, he's not rested, he's not injured.
"I've spoken to Mika about his game, he needs to compete harder. We've had open conversations with him over the last three weeks and he hasn't improved as much as I'd like. Cody's earned the right to take his spot and I'm taking it a week at a time."
Young said the conversation with Ramsey was a bright spot in what's been a tough initiation into the world of NRL head coaching.
"It was really special, it was certainly the highlight of my three-week coaching career," Young said.
"To see a kid work so hard on his game and the story behind it... when he was playing in our 20s he was living at Heathcote getting up at four o'clock in the morning and driving to work at Liverpool.
"He'd work all day, make the trip down to Wollongong and train at the university, he'd be the best trainer then and he'd get home at 8.30-9 and do it all over again.
"He's earned the right to put on the famous red v, the players a rapt for him, I'm not expecting the word from him, he's only young. I'm sure he's going to do what he does in the training paddock which is go out there and do his best."