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Mary 'sacrifices ego' in Red V team selections overhaul

Paul McGregor says he is happy to "sacrifice a bit of ego" and full control over his Dragons team selections despite another mountain of consternation over his coaching career looming each week.

McGregor was given the "continued support" of St George Illawarra's board 10 days ago when an emergency meeting was scheduled after a demoralising four-game losing streak.

The Dragons responded with a much-needed victory over Cronulla, with assistant coaches Shane Flanagan and Dean Young elevated alongside McGregor to a formal three-man selection committee leading into the critical local derby.

It is a rare scenario in the cut-throat world of NRL coaching where selections are decided on a voting process given McGregor as head coach will wear the brunt of criticism around a losing side.

The team-wide shake-ups that led to Ben Hunt being shuffled to the bench against Cronulla, Cameron McInnes to lock, Corey Norman to five-eighth and Matt Dufty returning to fullback are set to be retained for Saturday's clash with the Gold Coast.

Titans v Dragons - Round 6

While the prospect of potentially being out-voted on his own team list looms, McGregor has no qualms with the move to "share accountability" in regards to the 21-man squads each week.

"I think it's fine. I'm here to serve my players and staff," McGregor said on Friday.

"The club, if they think it's an innovative way that can help, I've got no problem with that. I'm fine with sacrificing a little bit of ego in the real world to make things better within.

Hunt says hooker isn't permanent

"We've always had a selection committee meet, and it's just an extension where there's a vote system in place to share accountability around the selection of the football team.

"There's three people involved, it's three coaches. And then from that the decision goes out to the players and that's how the team is named."

Selections have been a particularly thorny issue with rookie winger Jason Saab requesting multiple release requests in his bid to play regular first grade.

Off-contract utility back Tristan Sailor is another considering his future having been unable to crack an NRL start this year, while Hunt's move to the bench was this week formalised when he was named in the No.14 jersey.

Hunt was diplomatic during the week about his benching, but stressed he still sees himself as a marquee half, with McGregor hinting his new dummy-half role will not be a permanent one.

"Benny's been brought here as a seven, Cam's been brought here as a nine, and they're both very good players in their positions," McGregor said.

"But what the team needs now is Cam to move to 13 and Ben to nine, because he changed the game last week when he came onto the field and we expect that impact this week as well.

Holbrook bemused by Mary's Dufty dig

"What fits now may not fit in a month's time or a year's time."

McGregor confirmed veteran forward James Graham would tackle the Titans after he "surprised" the coach with his release request this week to finish his career in the UK.

Graham is expected to be allowed to join his former club St Helens, possibly as early as next week, pending St George Illawarra's search for a replacement.

"I was surprised when we first had the conversation," McGregor said.

"But after listening to James really get to the bottom of the decision and how quickly it became something serious, I can understand his circumstances.

"He's at the back end of his career and he's looking to finish with the club he started with.

McGregor explains Hunt reshuffle

"We've just got to make sure that the replacement we get is the right one.

"We definitely need a middle type of player. We'll be certainly looking for a like-for-like replacement."

With Graham's exit looming and Tyson Frizell off to Newcastle in 2021, the Dragons will have the best part of $1 million in free cap space up front.

The club is also in the market for strike power out wide with Melbourne's Josh Addo-Carr understood to have been discussed as a recruitment target.

Given the upheaval in his pack, McGregor said the club would fight to retain off-contract former NSW forward Jack de Belin if he is able to resume his NRL career.

De Belin's court case is due for a motion hearing in Wollongong Local Court on Monday, when a hearing date for the matter could be set.

Dragons forward Jack de Belin.
Dragons forward Jack de Belin. ©NRL Photos

The 29-year-old remains contracted to the Dragons but unavailable under the NRL's no-fault stand down rule.

"He's certainly in the club's plans for 2021," McGregor said.

"He's an elite player and when he was playing he was one of the best three middles in the game at [number] 13."

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