Phil Gould has made the bombshell revelation that his supposed review into the Dragons was basically non-existent and that he warned the club Paul McGregor’s coaching reign would end badly if the club failed to act.
Gould was charged by the Dragons with a club review last year, a process that was credited with an overhaul of support staff and the addition of Sharks premiership winner Shane Flanagan as an assistant coach.
Yet Gould told Wide World of Sports that the Dragons had not been in a position to make serious, meaningful change and that as a result, his review barely scratched the surface.
McGregor was sacked by the club on Thursday, with his role filled by assistant Dean Young for the remainder of this season.
“[McGregor’s sacking] was probably inevitable, given the form of the team this year and given the amount of scrutiny around this and the type of pressure that the club has been under to make a decision in this regard,” Gould said on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast (listen to the full episode below).
“I think there are a lot of issues within the Dragons club that need to be addressed if they’re to be a consistent and formidable team going into the future but now that this decision has been made, it might be OK for me to start to give some clarity to my review last year – or lack of review – into the Dragons’ situation.
“The truth of the matter is that there wasn’t really any sort of substantial review. That was discussed between [then Dragons chief executive] Brian Johnston and I at the time and sometime later, Brian Johnston resigned and went back to do other things.
“It’s difficult to talk about without giving away confidences but there was no real review, or what I would call a review, and I certainly wasn’t going to put my name to any document or review at that time. That’s why it’s been confusing for some people if a review took place.
“There were a number of discussions between Brian Johnston, Paul McGregor and myself. There were a number of things that we discussed that the club would like to do but we were unable to do.
“To be honest, the review didn’t really take place in the form or the type that one would expect and certainly that I would have liked to have done. We sort of preempted that unless things changed, they could well be in this situation halfway through this year (sacking McGregor); which has eventuated, which is disappointing for everybody.
“But right at that time, the club really wasn’t in a position to undergo or take advantage of any sort of extensive review into what the club needed to do into the future. But it certainly needs to do that now and going forward.
“Now they’ve made a decision to sack their coach and move on, now I think their real review starts and that’s up to the club now I guess.
“It [McGregor’s sacking] is not surprising. It’s unfortunate. I would have hoped that Paul and the club would have been able to turn it around and have to avoid this type of scrutiny and this type of decision.”
Gould said that he did not expect Flanagan to be enabled to succeed McGregor by the NRL, with one year remaining on his head coaching ban for breaching the terms of another sanction while at Cronulla.
“I see very little chance of that restriction being lifted,” Gould said.
“He has [pleaded his case to the NRL] on several occasions, I think there have been several attempts to have the restriction lifted and it has fallen upon deaf ears.
“I guess it’s only another 15-16 months before he could be a head coach and he’ll naturally be in demand when that time comes around but right at the moment, from my feedback from the NRL, there’s absolutely no chance of that restriction being lifted or altered.
“It’s not as though he could take another role within an NRL club and be a head coach under the guise of a different definition. He’s allowed to be an assistant coach right at the moment and that’s all.”
Former Dragons premiership coach Wayne Bennett has been named as another possible replacement for McGregor, as has former St George Illawarra player Craig Fitzgibbon, a highly-regarded assistant at the Roosters who at this stage is committed to remaining under Trent Robinson for next season.
Gould said that the external scrutiny and internal expectations lumped on modern NRL coaches were excessive and detrimental to their prospects of success; from dealing with player managers and contracts to board members and the media.
He lamented the fact that four clubs – The Dragons, Warriors, Cowboys and Bulldogs – currently have caretakers after the sacking of head coaches.
“A problem with a lot of the coaches is they get totally distracted or disorientated by all the other things that go on within a club,” Gould said.
“And some clubs leave too much responsibility to the head coach. I’m not saying that’s the situation in these clubs that have failed but too many of these young coaches come in after being promising assistant coaches and then they’ll go through an early period of success as a head coach but over time, the role of head coach really overwhelms them.
“And a lot of the time it’s because the club has placed too much responsibility with the head coach … they just haven’t organised the club around supporting the coach in every way that he needs and just having the coach coach the football.”