He's set to see out the season as Dragons interim coach, but that should not spell the end of Ryan Carr's time in Wollongong. That's the opinion of a dressing room that's found a fresh gear under the previously unknown 34-year-old thrust into the high-pressure role a month ago.
It followed the long-mooted sacking of former coach Anthony Griffin, from which the Dragons have managed wins over the Roosters and Rabbitohs - albeit an undermanned latter - and rung reigning premiers Penrith close on their patch.
It leaves a limp second 40 minutes against the Dolphins three weeks ago, minus skipper Ben Hunt, the only unmitigated disappointment of Carr's tenure. Beyond wins and losses, the Dragons have sported a noticeable spring in their step under an interim boss.
Long odds a month ago, Shane Flanagan has firmed as favourite to take over as the club's head coach from 2024, with Hunt confirming he's spoken with the premiership-winning mentor about a potential partnership in Wollongong.
Should he get the nod, reports suggest he will see out the year in his current role as assistant to Manly coach Anthony Seibold. Fellow candidate Dean Young is in a similar boat in his role with North Queensland amid whispers he may return to Wollongong under Flanagan as a package deal.
However those cards fall, Carr looks set to remain in his post for the remainder of 2024, with Hunt saying it "has to" be the case. Having worked closely with Carr since his arrival at the end of last year, fullback Tyrell Sloan wholeheartedly agrees.
"Carry's played a massive part in my career," Sloan said.
"I've leaned to the coaches to obviously get confidence and he's someone that suits my footy. He picks my brain and always challenges me every week to go be a leader and just play the footy that I'm used to.
"He's done an amazing job, so far with this club and hopefully he sticks around because he's someone that helps me massively. I love him as a coach.
"He's been a massive help for my career and, and I love having him here. Whatever happens with the new head coach, I hope he stays and continues to be a Dragon because he's been massive for me."
Zac Lomax had developed the same affinity with Carr, who recalled him from reserve grade after his high-profile axing by Griffin following a round nine loss to the Bulldogs.
It was a call Carr made within hours of being handed the keys ahead of round 12, also shifting Lomax back to the right edge where he's spent the bulk of his career before being shifted to left to start 2023.
"He just instills competing," Lomax said.
"That's the main thing he instills in us, competing, enthusiasm and just not walking. He brings confidence too. he's obviously a young [coach], he's very intense and loves his footy.
"He's a mad footy head and, just eats, sleeps and breathes rugby league. He knows footy like the back of his hand. He absolutely dissects everything and sometimes he comes in off of zero sleep.
"You try to tell him to get away and just have a couple of days off but that's the way he ticks and that's why he's a head coach at the moment. He dedicates his heart and soul to it.
"The best thing about Carry, is he's a really good dude off the field, a family man and he's been really good for us. We've been lucky to be able to have him and, as a team, we've definitely learned a lot."
Lomax is one of few surviving players to have been at the club when Flanagan was an assistant to Paul McGregor in 2020, while Young was also an assistant coach for the first three years of his career.
Flanagan briefly returned to the club last year in a list management role before linking with the Sea Eagles and, having been one of a number of players to have expressed concerns over his own future amid coaching uncertainty, Lomax said he hoped a decision was imminent.
"I've got a good relationship with Flanno," Lomax said.
"He was there with us under Mary (Paul McGregor) for a year. He was one of the assistants and he was really good. He's obviously had success at the Sharks. He's won a premiership there, so he knows what it takes to win.
"I'm not too sure who [the next coach] will be, but I think the board are definitely coming close to a decision and I'm sure it won't be too far around the corner."
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