The Paul McGregor smoke and mirrors show



The Thursday night game against the Rabbitohs was just an extension of the Paul McGregor travelling magic show, which the St George Illawarra Dragons have been putting on over the past eight weeks.

The first two games back from the lockdown saw the Dragons almost held scoreless, while the Warriors and the Bulldogs put on 18 and 22 points respectively. That left the Red V winless after the first four rounds.

Not surprisingly, there were lots of calls for McGregor to resign, but equally unsurprisingly, the same Dragons board that inexplicably extended Mary’s contract in 2019 decided he should stay, for reasons only known to themselves.

The next eight rounds have seen the Dragons win four games: one against the Sharks (with plenty of Dragons fans arguing it should have been two wins), another against the Sea Eagles, who were massively down on troops, a further win against the Titans and a “Hand of God” win against the Bulldogs (I can see Marcelo Montoya dropping that pass – still feel for him).

Along the way, we’ve been treated to some great attacking football, with Matt Dufty in career-best form, Adam Clune doing some very good things at halfback, Ben Hunt coming back into some pretty fair form and Zac Lomax showing why he could be a world-class centre.

All of these positives are hiding a simple truth. The Dragons have won four games this season, sit on eight competition points and have no chance of making the finals unless a major miracle occurs.

More to the point, since the start of the 2019 season, the Dragons have played 36 NRL games and won 12. That’s a 33 per cent win rate.

Paul McGregor at a press conference

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sure, the side has scored some terrific tries, but it’s still lost games. Yes, the efforts against the Panthers, Roosters and Raiders were gutsy, but the team still lost.

It’s very easy to buy into the notion that the side’s improving when it strings a couple of wins together, but this a distraction from reality. That is, the team is losing far more games than it wins.

And all the while, the coach who is not guiding the team to victories, but to eight losses this season, keeps his job and the criticism that should be directed his way has largely fallen silent, mostly because there are other high profile teams who are playing worse than the Dragons.

There are eight rounds to play in the 2020 season and the Dragons have a realistic chance to win exactly three games against the Cowboys, Titans and Broncos.

The other games against the Roosters, Eels, Raiders, Knights and Storm will hopefully be played with the same newfound flair that we’ve seen recently, but the results will be the same: losses. They might be gutsy losses, or hard fought losses, but they will still register zero competition points.

When the dust has settled on season 2020, I’m guessing the Dragons will end up on 14 competition points, which should be good enough for 11th or 12th. Many will think this is a great result given where the Red V finished last year and especially if the side continues to play an exciting brand of attacking footy.

The reality will be a team of enormous talent, in two seasons, has won 15 games out of 44.

This should be considered a disgraceful outcome, but will that result in the coach losing his job? Probably not, because McGregor the Magician will no doubt have more smoke to blow to cover up for his and the squad’s failings.

And thanks to the magic of his contract extension, Dragons fans can look forward to more of the same in season 2021.

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