Acting St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says he will happily step down if Wayne Bennett or another super coach joins the club.
McGregor secured his second win in four matches since taking over from the sacked Steve Price as the Dragons held on to beat Gold Coast 19-18 at CBUS Super Stadium, a Gareth Widdop field goal proving the difference.
Dragons edge Titans in race to the line
A field goal eight minutes from time proved vital when a late try brought the Titans to within a point of the Dragons.
Last week, McGregor’s former centre partner Mark Gasnier said the joint-venture club was about to secure “an experienced coach” for next year.
“If Wayne Bennett is coming home then it’s a no-brainer – it would be good for the club and for me to work with someone like that,” McGregor, who described criticism of his team’s desire as ‘‘embarrassing’’, said. “When I took over, we had to win eight of our remaining 16 games to make the finals. That’s really what I’m focused on. There are others out there who have coached a fair bit, but whether they are better, we don’t know.”
It’s understood that if the likes of Bennett, Des Hasler or Craig Bellamy cannot join St George Illawarra, McGregor would inform the club he is interested in the position. He is willing to go up against other candidates, such as Gold Coast assistant Neil Henry or NSW boss Laurie Daley. It is the first time he has made any comment on his interest, or otherwise, in keeping the position beyond this year.
A Brad Takairangi try two minutes from full-time, hurriedly converted from the sideline by Greg Bird, gave the Dragons some anxious moments.
This, despite Titans captain Nate Myles having been sent to the sin bin for swearing during a diatribe directed at referee Gerard Sutton when Trent Merrin scored for the Dragons on the hour.
Myles left CBUS stadium without commenting to reporters; his coach John Cartwright criticised the decision to dismiss him.
This was a game light on finesse and high on structure and errors.
Benji Marshall and Widdop combined as most St George Illawarra fans hoped they would when second-rower Leeson Ah Mau crossed in the fourth minute but Marshall’s pass was plucked out of the air for Kevin Gordon to score an 85-metre special 10 minutes later.
Mark Minichiello crashed over for the Titans in the 25th minute then Josh Dugan dodged and stepped his way to the line to bring up the 12-12 half-time ledger.
After the break it was NSW star Merrin – challenged by McGregor at half-time to show his best – who seemed to secure victory after a powerful set from the Dragons. Merrin came off late with a left knee injury which the Dragons hoped to be minor.
“I challenged him at half-time and I thought he really reacted to that challenge and played really well in that second half with that try he scored,” McGregor said. “He said he’d be OK, he said he could jog on it.”
A sixth consecutive defeat equals the Titans' record losing streak. Cartwright was pleased with the debut of new signing Daniel Mortimer. Lock Ben Ridge was carried off in a neck brace but diagnosed with concussion. Answering questions about the enigmatic Marshalll, who did as many bad things as good, including a bomb that went backwards, McGregor said: “Like I said last week and the week before, it’s a process and he [Marshall] has just got to play himself into form.
“You’ve got to put him out there, he’s got to train hard and he’s doing that.”
Asked if Marshall’s position was under threat, McGregor said: “Not at all”.