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Why Mary and his little lambs have got to go

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14th July, 2019
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After the Dragons fell to another embarrassing home defeat with a near full-strength squad, serious questions need to be asked about the future of the club in the hands of coach Paul McGregor.

While the excuse that this season has been plagued with off-field dramas that have hampered on-field success might seem to hold water at first, when put up to scrutiny, that argument is filled with holes.

Gareth Widdop being injured is not ideal but the switching of Widdop and Corey Norman at fullback and five-eighth was not working anyway, and was a stupid decision to begin with. Jack De Belin being taken away is another unavoidable problem but Blake Lawrie has been a capable makeshift replacement.

Those are the two long-term outs that have affected the side this year, along with a smattering of smaller injuries that should be expected during a season of full-contact sport.

The real problem lies deeper and is systemic within the Dragons administration. Mary has now been at the helm of the club for longer than any other coach in St George Illawarra Dragons history. The side has strike power across the park, which was reflected in the recent Origin series where six Dragons – the second most of any club – were chosen to represent their state.

So why is this stability and quality not coming together to form a competitive side?

It’s simple: the quality in the support and coaching staff simply aren’t up to scratch, and almost never have been at the Dragons. Mary might say all the right things at the press conferences but the fact is he is simply not getting the team to perform to their best at a consistent basis.

His rotation of the forwards has been downright confusing and his insistence on trying to turn Tyson Frizell into a middle forward for parts of the game is rage-inducing.

Paul McGregor

(Photo by Matt Blyth/Getty Images)

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The fact he continues to keep his job – and even got an extension – can be put down to the fact that he is ‘one of the good old boys’ and a club legend himself.

And it’s not just him. Mary’s little lambs include Ian Millward, director of rugby league pathways and former Illawarra Steelers junior, Dean Young, assistant coach and former Dragons player, Ben Hornby, assistant coach and Dragons captain during their 2010 premiership, and Mathew Head, assistant coach and former Dragons player.

It is not unusual for clubs to offer roles to former players, and by and large it is a good thing to provide for loyal servants of the team.

However, when these jobs are senior roles and the team is not performing, then questions have to be asked about the legitimacy of these positions and whether the right men have the job.

The Dragons are at an important point in their history. They have a good side and, with a few good decisions and recruitments, could be in a premiership window soon.

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They have also recently secured their financial future, which means they can make a big push and establish a legacy that might one day be mentioned alongside the great sides of the 1950s and ’60s.

However, to do this, the Dragons need to be ruthless and treat their coaching staff like a business, rather than a pathway for past players.

Go after one of the great coaches and get him to bring in his own support staff.

Since 2001, the Dragons have only ever had one coach that wasn’t a past player, and he won them a premiership.

Imagine what they could do if they got another.