Paul McGregor's reign as coach of St George Illawarra will end after Friday night's clash with Parramatta after the club was unable to assure him of his position for 2021.
McGregor spoke with Dragons CEO Ryan Webb on Wednesday night ahead of a board meeting next week to discuss his future and it is understood when Webb told him that his tenure was not guaranteed next season, the coach opted to resign.
As first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, McGregor informed his players at Thursday's final training session before the match that he would not see out the season.
Assistant coach Dean Young will take over in an interim capacity for the final six rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
When asked on Thursday who he thought should take over long term, McGregor said: "They have got a very good one here [Young], so let’s give him, after this weekend, six weeks and see.
"Dean’s as hard a worker as anyone I have had on my staff, he is loyal to the club, he has bled for the club, he will only do good things for the club and he is a very smart coach."
Webb said Young would very much be considered for the role in 2021.
"I think once the process gets put in place around the new coach and what we are doing, if Dean wants to throw his hat in the ring then when that time comes he can make that call."
We haven't met performance expectations over the past 18 months.Paul McGregor
Earler in the day, the club officially announced McGregor's tenure was ending. He said his unhappiness with the recent introduction of a selection committee to pick the team each week was part of the reason why he brought his future to a head with the CEO.
The NRL has indicated no approach has been made by the Dragons regarding the potential easing of assistant coach Shane Flanagan's two-year ban from head coaching, which would be needed for him to take charge of the club before 2022.
As far as the governing body is concerned, nothing has changed since ALRC chairman Peter V'landys shot down the prospect of Flanagan making an early return as a head coach two months ago.
"He has to serve the penalty he's been given and there's no reason at this stage to change that penalty," he said in June.
Webb said as far as the club was concerned, Flanagan was banned until the end of next year for such a role and "it would probably be more him and his manager going to the NRL and having that discussion and if the position changed then he would be considered. I think that is how it would work".
McGregor, who was contracted until the end of next year, has coached the Dragons since 2014 when he took over after Steve Price was sacked mid-season.
"I wish to thank the Dragons for allowing me to be head coach over the past seven seasons as well as everyone who has been involved in my journey at this proud club," McGregor said in the statement released by the club.
Paul McGregor's full press conference
"I approached the club's chief executive Ryan Webb earlier in the week regarding a number of matters and we eventually came to an agreement that this week will be my last as coach of the Dragons.
"I understand a fresh face and new voice is needed to move the club forward. I hope this decision will provide clarity to the playing group, the entire staff and our passionate Red V members and partners regarding the direction the club is headed.
"After 25 years with the Illawarra Steelers and St George Illawarra as a player, staff member, captain and coach, I viewed my positions as a series of privileges not obligations.
"We haven't met performance expectations over the past 18 months, and I take acceptance of responsibility.
"I had the opportunity to build my team, which we did in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, we have not put that same side on the field since for a number of reasons.
"Dean Young and the team have a fantastic opportunity over the next six weeks to build into the 2021 campaign. Dean deserves this great opportunity to showcase his capabilities in the head coach role."
McGregor's departure will mean during the past two months, four NRL coaches - a quarter of the competition - have parted ways with their club. Two other teams have interim coaches - Souths and Brisbane - due to Wayne Bennett breaching biosecurity rules and Anthony Seibold taking leave due to a personal matter.
Eels v Dragons - Round 14
Webb said the Dragons' decision to end the 52-year-old coach's tenure was "one that nobody took lightly".
"Paul has had a 25-year association with our club and the joint venture's founding club, the Illawarra Steelers and has shown great passion, integrity, character and a strong work ethic throughout this time. He will forever be a part of the Dragons family.
"It's important to note that Craig Young excused himself of any decision making pertinent to Paul's departure and Dean's appointment. As such, for as long as Dean remains coach, Craig will take a voluntary leave of absence from the board."
The directors at next Tuesday's board meeting will begin the process of appointing the next full-time coach.