OUTGOING St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor says frustration over the club's controversial selection committee was what ultimately prompted a mutual parting of ways this week.
Friday's clash with Parramatta will be McGregor's final game as head coach after informing the club board of his intention to step down on Tuesday.
Addressing the media in Wollongong on Thursday, McGregor said the "mutual" decision to part ways came down to frustration with the board's refusal to scrap the committee.
"A couple of weeks ago I spoke to [CEO] Ryan [Webb] about the selection panel, I wasn't comfortable with it," McGregor said.
"I understand that the board put it in place to share responsibility in and around the other coaches but, as a head coach, you need to select your team.
"I think the conversation in the selection committee was outstanding, I think it's really good to have, but I feel the coach should get the final say in who's selected in the team. That's just how I feel.
"It's very hard when you're owning a result but not picking your team that you want. I wasn't dealing with that very well. Ryan took that to the board and it came back that it wasn't going to change. That's what brought it to a head."
The imposition of a selection panel followed a board meeting the day after a 22-2 loss to the Bulldogs in round four - the low point of an 0-4 start to the season.
McGregor, who's squad features Group Seven's Tariq and Korbin Sims, Euan Aitken, Jackson Ford, Trent Merrin and Adam Clune, was spared the axe but lost final say on team selections, with assistant coaches Dean Young and Shane Flanagan given an equal vote at the selection table.
It saw a brief turnaround in fortunes, winning four of their next six games, before fading out of finals contention with last week's loss to the Roosters.
McGregor has copped a mountain of criticism in that time over repeated changes to the spine, despite the decision being made by committee. He said the board's refusal to budge made his position untenable.
"I thought the board were very supportive at the time and the idea of a selection panel worked for a period, but when it gets to stage where you can't pick a player in the position you feel he's right to play it's probably not the right thing to [continue] to coach," McGregor said.
"When you've got good coaches around you you need to lean on them, that's what should happen, you should have really good open conversations, but the coach should pick his team.
"I'm not one to talk about [the discussions] but it's a decision that was made and I wanted it changed a little bit. The other thing was around recruitment I wanted to know where I was going.
"We got into a conversation and Ryan explained exactly how everything has rolled through."
Family circumstances were also a factor for the 52-year-old, whose been unable to see his seriously-ill father due to NRL bubble restrictions. He said that will be his first visit when he's freed from the bubble after Friday's match with the Eels.
"It's certainly been tough, my father's seriously ill," McGregor said.
"That's part of [the decision], it's not the only thing, but it's obviously in the back of your mind, family's everything.
"He's been in hospital for quite some time so I need to go and see him. That's the biggest thing, I can go and see Dad on Saturday."
McGregor's call saved what might have been a tough decision for the board, who were due to meet this coming Tuesday to discuss the coach's future.
Webb said no determination had been made, but stressed the the decision to part ways with the coach a was an amicable one for both parties.
"The way it came about was probably more mutual than normal and Paul stepping down in that sense," Webb said.
"The plan was to have a chat about it at the board meeting on Tuesday, that was fairly well-publicised. That was always the plan, so my initial discussions with Paul were preparing for that and it evolved into something more.
"He had some frustrations and things we tried to talk through and [wanted] clarity on the future. We could see we weren't getting to the right point.
"After a couple of days we got to a position Mary, myself and his manager [Dave Riolo] had put together which was coaching this weekend and handing the reins over to Dean.
"It was a fair conversation, there's a lot of respect for Paul, it wasn't taken lightly, but we've ended up in this place now with Paul finishing up."
Young will take over in an interim capacity, thought conversation will quickly turn to a long-term replacement.
Flanagan - currently barred from any head coaching role until 2022 - will no doubt feature heavily in those discussions but Webb said the board has made no approach to the NRL about the possibility of his ban being reduced.
"We haven't looked at anything. Paul was the coach, and still is for a couple more days, and it's not something the club's going to be doing behind our coach's back," Webb said.
"Nothing's been done to this point. As far as Shane goes, he's banned until the end of next year before he could do it. That's as I understand it.
"I think'd probably be more him and his manager going to the NRL and having that discussion and, if the position changed, then he'd be considered. I think that's how it would work."
Former Dragons Craig Fitzgibbon and Jason Ryles have been linked to the role, and most others that become available, with Webb saying the board will look to install a successor around the end of the current season.
"We want to go through a fair process, we'll discuss that at the board meeting on Tuesday, but I would say we'll give ourselves through until the end of the season," Webb said.
"That gives us six-seven weeks and gives the new coach to come in after the break with a good run into preseason. They can come in, hit the ground running, and shape things from day one."