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The Roar


Free-pass year becomes coaching nightmare

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13th August, 2020

This 2020 season has turned into a bloodbath for NRL coaches, with four clubs wielding the axe after 15 rounds of the season.

It was supposed to be the year NRL coaches got a free pass.

Paul McGregor will become the fourth coach to depart mid-season when he exits St George Illawarra after Friday’s clash with Parramatta. 

It’s just the third time in the game’s history there has been four mid-season departures in the coaching ranks, joining 1994 and 2014.

And never before has it all happened inside 15 rounds.

Making it even more remarkable is that when the sport resumed from the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, many in the game believed cost-cutting would see clubs stick by their coaches instead of paying them out early.

By comparison all 18 AFL coaches that started the season remain in their positions.

That statistic would be cold comfort for McGregor. Or Stephen Kearney, Paul Green and Dean Pay for that matter, who have all been sacked in 2020.

Under-siege Anthony Seibold, who will likely be given to the end of the season at Brisbane, is still watching the walls close in on him.


McGregor, at least, could say the decision was an agreement. Unhappy with the club’s selection panel policy, he walked.

But it still came after months of pressure and ahead of a board meeting next week where his future was set to be discussed.

McGregor accepted this week that this was simply part of the job.

“You understand the responsibility when you take the role,” McGregor said.

“The emotional side of me is because I have been at the organisation for so long.

“Professionally I am fine. My mental state is fine.

“I haven’t slept as well in the previous week as I have before, but in a couple of weeks I will be fine.”

McGregor has copped more than most, with sections of the Dragons fan-base unforgiving for the team’s fade in recent years.


“They’re passionate, they’re caring,” McGregor said. 

“And there are a lot of good people out there who support the red and white.

“Sometimes the loudest voices are heard.”

The bloodletting of coaches will also call into question club spending in a year where the NRL’s head office was accused of being “bloated”.

It is unclear whether McGregor received a payout, but it would be expected given he still had 15 months left on his contract.

Kearney was reportedly handed $2 million by the Warriors, and Green close to $1 million. 

Pay was also paid out the remaining three months of his contract.

Any payouts to coaches made before November 1 will count into this year’s football department cap before it is lowered next year.


Clubs who go beyond that cap are asked to pay a luxury tax to the NRL.