Dragons coach Paul McGregor is increasingly frustrated with the NRL.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor is increasingly frustrated with the NRL.

Frustrated McGregor still waiting for cap relief to replace de Belin

ST George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor admits being frustrated as the club waits on salary cap dispensation for banned star Jack de Belin.

McGregor said there had been no progression in the club's attempt to temporarily replace de Belin, who has been stood down under the game's new no-fault policy after he was charged with sexual assault.

Asked whether he was frustrated, McGregor said: "Yes."

Pressed on whether they knew what type of player they could get, McGregor said it would be up to recruitment manager Ian Millward.

"First of all we've got to know the situation and have a good understanding of it, and then Ian will go to work," he said.

McGregor's comments come as he defended his experimental spine following a second straight loss to start the season. The Dragons have left regular fullback Matt Dufty on the bench with Ben Hunt and Corey Norman combining in the halves with Gareth Widdop shifted to the No.1.

The Dragons started brightly against South Sydney on Thursday night but were blasted away by a rampant Rabbitohs attack in the second half to go down 34-18. 

Jack de Belin has been stood down pending a court appearance. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
Jack de Belin has been stood down pending a court appearance. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

The off-contract coach pointed to the absence of star duo Tyson Frizell (injured) and de Belin, as well as suspended new recruit Korbin Sims.

"We're down two Origin players and we lost Leeson (Ah Mau). We replaced him with Korbin," McGregor said.

"He hasn't played yet either, so we're really down three quality forwards.

"That's not ideal if you're a spinal player anyway to start with, and then when you don't hold possession, that digs the hole a bit deeper."

McGregor's decision to shift Gareth Widdop to fullback came under the spotlight again when NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler called for the club to consider letting him go.

 

Widdop’s move to fullback is yet to reap rewards.
Widdop’s move to fullback is yet to reap rewards.

Widdop has already announced a move back to England last year, which prompted the Dragons to sign Corey Norman over the summer.

"Gareth's what we need for this season. We've got a good opportunity in 2019. We've lost our first two games which is disappointing," McGregor said.

"But there's a long way to go in this competition and Gareth's a big part of our football team. He's our captain, and he's in my footy side."

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