After 150 games in charge of St George Illawarra, Paul McGregor believed he deserved the final say on team selections and a greater involvement in recruitment for the 2021 season.
They were the two main issues which led to McGregor and Dragons CEO Ryan Webb agreeing on Wednesday night that this weekend's match against Parramatta would be his last as St George Illawarra coach.
There was no prolonged dispute between McGregor and assistant coaches Dean Young and Shane Flanagan over selections, no falling out with list manager Ian Millward and he never lost the support of his players – some of whom he had known since they were eight years old.
However, McGregor felt that he had earned the right to live or die by his own decisions so he approached Webb two weeks ago about changes if he was to continue as coach next season.
Specifically, the 52-year-old wanted the board to scrap the three-man selection panel they had introduced earlier this season and allow him greater input into the 2021 roster.
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When the board insisted on sticking with a selection system designed to support him, but which saw McGregor outvoted 2-1 on occasions, and a policy introduced in 2016 to separate the coaching and recruitment responsibilities, an early end to his tenure seemed inevitable.
"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," McGregor said on Thursday.
"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 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 coach."
It's understood that one player the selection panel disagreed over was Corey Norman, whose form McGregor had been unhappy with several weeks before he was finally dropped for last Thursday night's 32-24 loss to Sydney Roosters.
He had also wanted to call up Tristan Sailor earlier than the Round 12 clash with South Sydney.
The mid-season departures of James Graham, Tim Lafai and Issac Luke had eroded the Dragons' depth and McGregor wanted to decide who should replace them, as well as Newcastle-bound Tyson Frizell, the club's best forward.
"The question from a lot of people was 'are we replacing anyone in the squad', because there were some players who had left and we hadn't, so I wanted to know where I was going with recruitment and retention going forward," McGregor said.
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In his first four full seasons in the job, McGregor enjoyed the fifth most wins after Craig Bellamy, Wayne Bennett, Trent Robinson and Paul Green as St George Illawarra sat on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder for long periods in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Undoubtedly 2018 was McGregor's best season as the Red V led the competition for 18 rounds, thrashed Brisbane in their opening finals match and bowed out against Souths with Gareth Widdop, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims watching on as Adam Reynolds kicked three field goals.
However, Jack de Belin has not played since under the NRL's no fault stand-down policy, Widdop missed most of last season with a shoulder injury before returning to England and Leeson Ah Mau joined the Warriors in 2019.
De Belin has not been replaced, while Norman was signed to take over Widdop's No.6 jersey and Korbin Sims was bought home in place of Ah Mau but neither has had the same impact as those players,
"We were pretty well unbeatable in 2018, but in the last 18 months we haven't been able to put the same team on the park, for different reasons," McGregor said.
Despite the disappointment of last year, when the team failed to make the finals, and the first 13 rounds this season, St George Illawarra teams have only suffered losses of 30 points or more in seven of the 151 matches with McGregor in charge.
During that time he has blooded 28 debutants and three of those players – fullback Matt Dufty, centre Zac Lomax and halfback Adam Clune have been the team's best this season.
McGregor recently described the Dragons as "fun to watch but hard to support" and understands the frustration of many St George Illawarra fans with the team's inconsistent performances.
"They are passionate, they are caring and there are a lot of good people out there who support the red-and-white," McGregor said. "Sometimes the loudest voices get heard.
"I'll go to Bunnings, build a bridge and get over myself. The emotional side of me is because I have been in the organisation for so long. That is why it is a bit raw but professionally I am fine. My mental state is great."
Asked whether fans should consider McGregor's tenure to be successful, Webb said: "I think they should.
"If you've got someone who is emotionally connected to the club, who just puts in ridiculous hours with his work ethic and his passion for the place and you want someone leading your club, I think he ticks all those boxes.
"On field is hard to judge because he's had a pretty extraordinary period, particularly the last 18 months. I'm not sure about the wider public's perception, but mine would be in the last four months he's done as good a job as he could possibly do."
After 25-years involvement with Illawarra or the Dragons as a player, staff member or coach, McGregor will always have a close connection to the club but he wants to continue coaching, saying: "I haven't stopped yet".
With North Queensland yet to appoint a coach for next season and the fate of Brisbane mentor Anthony Seibold resting with an end of season review, opportunities may arise for McGregor at the Cowboys or Broncos – even as an experienced assistant.
As for who will replace him at St George Illawarra, Young will now have six weeks to impress for the job, while the club is likely to be linked with Green, Bennett, Craig Fitzgibbon, Jason Ryles and Anthony Griffin.
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Webb said the club would also consider appointing a GM of football, while indicating that the next coach was unlikely to have to deal with a selection panel before naming the team each week.
"It would depend on who it is but I think the support mechanisms put around Mary were specific so I think you will have to see who is in that job," Webb said.
"I don't think it is something that we thought is an exceptional need. If you have a different person you probably have a different set-up."