Tony Durkin: Contract is a big issue for Dragons

WHEN Wayne Bennett said he was quitting the Knights six weeks ago, deciding not to coach the Dragons but instead returning to the Broncos in 2015, St George-Illawarra caretaker coach Paul McGregor looked a certainty to be appointed head coach.

After 11 weeks of McGregor trialling in the custodian role following Steve Price being given the bullet back in May, that appointment has finally been made.

And although his 50% record since taking the reins by no means paints him as the messiah, McGregor has given all the indications that he has what it takes to be a coaching success.

But why give him a three-year contract straight up?

Surely the volatile nature of NRL coaching is such that a rookie has to earn his stripes.

This is in no way a criticism of McGregor who is a former Dragons/Steeler player and club captain, well respected by his peers and the game in general.

But the three-year tenure does raise questions of the wisdom of Dragons management in making the appointment.

McGregor was not going anywhere.

Since his retirement as a player he has served in various assistant roles in the Wollongong area, and was head coach of the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup in 2012 and 2013.

Laurie Daley had McGregor as his right-hand man with the Blues during the recent Origin series and he was also assistant to Price at the Dragons before eventually taking over as caretaker in round 11.

Unquestionably he was a coach on L plates, and no other NRL club was beating down his door.

So rather than sign him to a long-term deal - and in the current NRL climate three years IS long-term - why not give him one year with the carrot of a two-year extension at the end of next season, based on performance.

Admittedly that might give the impression the Dragons are not completely sold on McGregor, and it could also impinge on the confidence of the players.

But that inducement may also make those same stakeholders hungrier for success, which can never be a bad thing.

Season 2014 has been a shocker for NRL coaches.

Price was one of six to hit the deck, alongside Matt Elliott, Shane Flanagan, Peter Sharp, Anthony Griffin and John Cartwright.

The year before, Neil Henry and David Furner were culled and Ricky Stuart quit.

And since 2012 both the Warriors and Eels have had four changes in their head coaching position.

In most cases the coaches were sacked with more than a year to run on their contract, which meant clubs were effectively paying two salaries. And that includes the Dragons.

What happened to the adage 'once bitten, twice shy'?