A decision on the St George Illawarra coaching job is expected within the next week but Craig Fitzgibbon is out of contention after advising the Dragons that he intended to remain with the Roosters.
The decision boosts the chances of interim coach Dean Young being appointed to the role on a permanent basis and it is understood a decision on Paul McGregor’s long-term replacement will be made either this week, or next week at the latest.
Fitzgibbon had been considered an ideal fit for the Dragons job as he is the son of inaugural Steelers coach Allan Fitzgibbon, an Illawarra junior who was a member of the joint-venture's 1999 grand final team before achieving success with the Roosters as a player and coach, and he still lives in the area.
He is widely regarded as an NRL coach in waiting but just as he rejected approaches from Newcastle, the Warriors and North Queensland, Fitzgibbon is understood to have formally advised the Dragons on the weekend that he wants to wants to honour the remaining year of his contract as an assistant at the Roosters.
The former Test second-rower has worked alongside Roosters coach Trent Robinson since 2013 as the club has won three NRL premierships, three World Club Challenge titles and four minor premierships.
Besides Young, other names linked to the St George Illawarra job include former Brisbane and Penrith coach Anthony Griffin, former Canberra mentor David Furner and former Raiders, Cowboys and Titans veteran Neil Henry.
Every try from round 16
There has also been speculation that South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett could return to the club he guided to grand final glory in 2010 but he still has another year to run on his contract with the Rabbitohs before handing over to assistant coach Jason Demetriou.
Young remains close to Bennett after playing under him at the Dragons, while he has a relationship with Griffin from their involvement with the Tongan team that created history by beating Australia in Auckland at the end of last season.
It had been suggested McGregor’s departure after the round-14 defeat of Parramatta was to give Young six weeks to prove himself for the role and officials were particularly keen to see how the Dragons performed under him in successive matches against the NRL’s three Queensland clubs.
After defeating Brisbane 28-24, St George Illawarra lost 14-10 to Gold Coast last Friday night and meet North Queensland in Townsville on Sunday.
St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb last week emailed Dragons members to advise the club’s next coach would have strong discipline, an ability to develop young players, a defensive mindset and come from a culture of success.
Young, who was a key member of St George Illawarra’s 2010 premiership-winning team, meets those criteria.