The NRL has not ruled out the possibility for Shane Flanagan to return in a head coaching role as early as this season, placing under-fire Dragons coach Paul McGregor under more pressure.
Flanagan is currently a Dragons assistant coach and is currently ineligible for a head coaching role until the end of next season. However, The Daily Telegraph has revealed that the NRL will consider any application for Flanagan by the Dragons or any other club.
In December 2018, Flanagan was initially deregistered indefinitely for violating the rules of his 2014 ban for the Cronulla supplement saga. The NRL then eased the sanctions late last year that allowed him to be appointed at the Dragons.
Calls for McGregor to be replaced intensified after the Dragons slumped to their third straight loss to start the season, going down 18-0 to the injury-riddled New Zealand Warriors.
After re-signing until the end of 2021 in April last year, McGregor could face the axe after finishing 15th last season and losing 17 of their past 21 games.
If the Dragons sack McGregor, the Dragons board would have to pay between $1.5 million and $1.8 million to terminate his contract as well as up to $800,000 for a new coach.
Flanagan has been touted by the board as a cheaper internal alternative to hiring an outside coach. McGregor’s fate could be decided at the next Dragons board meeting on June 16, followed by a match with the struggling Gold Coast Titans.
The Dragons’ loss on Saturday has raised questions on the expensive halves combo of Ben Hunt and Corey Norman with McGregor stating before round three that under-performing players will be cut from the side.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters has urged the struggling pair to find their running game, with Hunt just having two runs from 65 possessions and Norman taking the line on only six times.
“Ben Hunt’s biggest asset is his running game, and I have been telling everyone that for years,” Walters told Sky Sports Radio.
“(The six-again rule) is perfect for those two. Corey Norman is a great runner of the ball too.
“The message from me would be clear to both those players – challenge the line.”