Free-pass year becomes coaching nightmare

Paul Green is one of four NRL coaches to lose his job this season.
Paul Green is one of four NRL coaches to lose his job this season.

It was supposed to be the year NRL coaches got a free pass, but 2020 has instead turned into a bloodbath for clipboard holders.

Paul McGregor will this week became the fourth coach to depart mid-season when he exits St George Illawarra after Friday's clash with Parramatta.

It's just the third time in the game's history there has been four mid-season departures in the coaching ranks, joining 1994 and 2014.

And never before has it all happened inside 15 rounds.

Making it even more remarkable is that when the sport resumed from the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, many in the game believed cost-cutting would see clubs stick by their coaches instead of paying them out early.

By comparison all 18 AFL coaches that started the season remain in their positions.

That statistic would be cold comfort for McGregor. Or Stephen Kearney, Paul Green and Dean Pay for that matter who have all been sacked in 2020.

Under-siege Anthony Seibold, who will likely be given to the end of the season at Brisbane but is still watching the walls close in on him.

"I think everyone talks about the negative side of the game so much every week," McGregor said.

"And unfortunately that's what everyone wants to hear.

"So when a team's not doing so well and they're in the bottom half of the competition, everyone wants change.

"And unfortunately it's probably not the right story a lot of the time.

"It's not only our sport, but all sports."

McGregor, at least, could say the decision was an agreement. Unhappy with the club's selection panel policy, he walked.

But it still came after months of pressure and ahead of a board meeting next week where his future was set to be discussed.

"They don't hire you to retire you, they hire you to fire you," McGregor said after his final game on Friday night.

"Fortunately enough I didn't get fired, but we came to the agreement that I thought the right decision was to step aside."

The bloodletting of coaches will also call into question club spending in a year where the NRL's head office was accused of being "bloated".

It is unclear whether McGregor received a pay out, but it would be expected given he still had 15 months left on his contract.

Kearney was reportedly handed $2 million by the Warriors, and Green close to $1 million.

Pay was also paid out the remaining three-months of his contract.

Any pay outs to coaches made before November 1 will count into this year's football department cap, before it is lowered next year.

Clubs who go beyond that cap are asked to pay a luxury tax to the NRL.

Australian Associated Press