Paul McGregor is firming as favourite for coach of the year honours after succeeding in the face of great adversity, most of which has been caused by Dragons administration.
The man fondly referred to as ‘Paul McGregor’ has been the non-Tigers-related story of 2017, piloting his underrated side to the top of the ladder after seven rounds of the NRL premiership.
Most incredibly, he has accomplished this feat despite facing plenty of serious pressure and doubt from detractors, some of them external.
But acid has also come from the inside, and that’s because it’s the Dragons.
The organisation has always chased it’s commercial chilli pizzas with a triple-shot latte, that way everyone within gets to enjoy the heartburn.
As we have seen in the past, some of their business practices have been so remarkable that the NRL has rewarded their work with bail-out funding.
While acknowledging this year has been no post-Wayne Bennett era, there certainly has been some of their self-imposed hijinks and divisionism that outsiders have come to know and love.
It is difficult to single out an individual for blame, but Peter Doust will do.
Doust has provided McGregor with the stable environment coaches crave, choosing to string him along unsigned for 2018 even though he’s reshaped a Dragons attack once agile as continental drift.
To his credit though, the CEO has maintained traditional communication techniques with their talks, at all times remaining clear on an unconfirmed timeframe for when it probably won’t be renewed.
And to be honest, who would question Doust’s methods?
With 17 consecutive years in the same job with no accountability, he proves the old adage that winning always begins in the front office.
Nevertheless, despite the chief making McGregor feel more than welcome, the club’s magnum opus of termite artistry on its coach has been Ian Millward’s public undermining of his plans for Josh Dugan.
Millward was signed by the club to assist with recruitment, and it is fair to say he has shown plenty of initiative by ebulliently ignoring the coach’s opinion on pretty much everything.
Signing him to relieve pressure on McGregor has worked a treat, as it has freed up the coach to deal with important stuff like the badgering from the press caused by his mixed messaging.
In addition to panicking at the Ben Hunt auction – thus eliminating the cap space needed to pay silly overs for Cooper Cronk – their combination has worked seamlessly.
So in addition to killing off the Illawarra Cutters, almost losing Gareth Widdop and trying to bludge $100k of the NRL’s money to pay a concussion fine, it’s business as usual at the Dragons.
Hence, a toast to Paul McGregor.
The Dragons are 6-1 and still experiencing turbulence, yet none of it is his fault. Except the 6-1 part.