$1.8m Dragons dilemma as calls grow to replace McGregor
A NERVOUS St George Illawarra board is under overwhelming pressure from disgruntled fans but knows it would cost between $1.5 to $1.8 million to sack and replace coach Paul McGregor.
It is money the club doesn't have.
McGregor is under the pump yet again after a difficult 18-0 loss to New Zealand Warriors in Gosford on Saturday, the Dragons' third defeat to start 2020.
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Saints supporters have inundated social media calling for McGregor to be dumped - but it isn't that simple.
McGregor is only in the first year of a newly signed extension, his deal not expiring until after next season. He is believed to be an annual contract worth between $600,000 to $700,000.
Axing McGregor mid-contract would cost the club around $1m with a new coach to demand a deal from $500,000 to $800,000, depending on his seniority and previous success.
The Dragons would simply have to find the cash.
Saints are debt-free after repaying a $5.8m loan back to the NRL in 2018 but money remains tight in Wollongong.
McGregor is close to the WIN faction, which controls 50 per cent of the club previously owned by Illawarra Steelers. The other 50 per cent shareholder is the St George District Rugby League Football Club.
WIN is known to be cautious with their spending and aren't willing just yet to outlay such expense to terminate their coach.
But the pressure would become intolerable if Saints lost their first six or seven games of the season.
Victory in next Monday's big match against Canterbury will ease pressure on McGregor - a loss though would further stoke the heat.
A list of possible replacements is already circulating but Saints board remains committed to McGregor, for now.
Former Wigan coach Shaun Wane is a left-field candidate while speculation continues about Wayne Bennett possibly shifting back to the club where he won the 2010 premiership.
Wane, the English Test coach, has long sought a head NRL coaching position.
Saints assistant coach Shane Flanagan is prevented by the NRL from assuming a head coaching role until the end of next season while current assistant Dean Young would be a contender.
The usual suspects have been thrown up including Steve Price - the former Dragons coach now at Warrington - Simon Woolford, the ex-Saints hooker now coaching Huddersfield, along with Neil Henry, Anthony Griffin, Matt Elliott, Tim Sheens, John Cartwright and Geoff Toovey.
Tyson's Frizell's move to Newcastle from next season hasn't helped McGregor, nor has the protracted court case against Jack de Belin.
Saints finished 15th last season and were lacklustre against the Warriors, who completed their first 44 sets, on Saturday.
A major worry for McGregor is the form of halfback Ben Hunt, who appeared lethargic against the Warriors, although he was carrying a leg injury. There have been calls for Hunt to shift to the bench.
There is also a push for exciting young Tristan Sailor - the son of former dual international Wendell - to find a spot in the St George Illawarra backline.