McGregor sees silver lining in Saints exit

Paul McGregor will visit his sick father when he exits St George Illawarra this weekend.
Paul McGregor will visit his sick father when he exits St George Illawarra this weekend.

Paul McGregor will spend his first weekend away from the NRL with his ill father, finally free to see him in hospital now he has been relinquished from the game's bubble.

Then, after signing off from St George Illawarra and having some time to refresh, he insists he has plenty more to offer as a coach.

McGregor has spent 25 years at the Steelers and Dragons as a player and coach, joining Nathan Brown as the merged club's most capped mentor on Friday night against Parramatta with 151 games.

But it was only when talking about his father Frank that he showed signs of emotions when he announced his impending departure on Thursday.

"It's been tough," McGregor said.

"My father is seriously ill. He's been in hospital for quite some time. So I need to go and see him. That's the big thing.

"It's been in the back of my mind. Obviously family is everything.

"That's the big thing, I can go and see him on Saturday."

McGregor's story is one of the hardest of the bubble.

A true depiction of the sacrifice players and coaches are making, despite the few breaches in recent weeks.

It can also place extra pressure on teams though, as they battle to get out of a rut when struggling for form.

"It has a lot to do with everything, some teams handle it very well and others struggle," McGregor said.

"I just think it's a responsibility of ours to do whatever is needed for the game. That's the truth of it.

"You've got to sacrifice and that is what everyone is doing. To go and do things outside of that it's just stupid.

"Because the game is bigger than anyone else."

After taking over from Steve Price in 2014, McGregor took the Dragons to the finals in 2015 and 2018.

They looked on the right track in the latter of those years, before late season fade outs hurt.

Then came the killer blow, with Gareth Widdop announcing his intentions to return to England mid-contract and Jack de Belin stood down by the NRL for off-field issues.

But regardless, McGregor still wants to return to the coach's box.

"I was really happy with the performances of the team in 2017 and 18. We were building strongly and were pretty much unbeatable in 2018," he said.

"Unfortunately in 2019 and 2020 we haven't been able to put the same team on the park, for different reasons and that's part of sport.

"I accept and take responsibility for the results.

"My next journey, I haven't stopped yet. I'll probably freshen up a bit.

"We have a cabin down at Berrara. I'll go down there for a couple of days and just rest up."

Australian Associated Press