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McGregor says new feeling will be difficult to accept

A deflated St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor says it will be hard to accept his side are out of finals contention.

The Dragons showed little in their 12-4 loss to the Eels despite several opportunities to draw level with the visitors in an otherwise dire contest in Kogarah.

McGregor has already labelled 2019 as one of the toughest he'd ever been a part of but the reality finally kicked following the result with the Dragons officially knocked out of finals contention.

"It's the first time in my coaching career I haven't been in a semi-finals position at this time of the year," McGregor said.

"The last couple of weeks have been pretty hard because when you're not winning games you're out of finals contention. You build your whole year and team around that so it's difficult.

"I'm not going to hide the fact when you're not winning games of footy everyone wants to know why and the reasons behind it.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Eels

"Everyone wants to come at you and attack you but as a coach you've just got to make sure you're comfortable being uncomfortable."

The Dragons have several reasons to finish the season strong in 2019 with James Graham in line to play his 400th first grade game (including Super League matches) next week against the Gold Coast.

Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop will also depart the club at season's end after working his way back from a shoulder reconstruction.

Ravalawa gets the Dragons back in the match

"[I've got to] stay composed and still keep the boys confident," McGregor said.

"I'm competitive as ever and you just want to make sure you finish on a strong note. There's a part of me that wants to win, a big part."

McGregor was confident the team would continue to show a desire he believes has been there over the past fortnight despite the results not going in their favour against the Eels and Rabbitohs.

"We played two teams in the top six who are playing with a bit of confidence," he said.

"We're down on confidence and not winning games of footy. Everything is a little bit clunky. Our execution is not where it needs to be.

"I don't think the effort was any different than last week."

McGregor was confident prop Paul Vaughan won't have a case to answer for two crusher tackles – one of which was placed on report – in the side's loss.

Vaughan left the field with a dislocated finger in the second half in a mixed game for the NSW prop. 

"I just feel that Parramatta are a good offload side and they spin well in tackles so their backing into the contact," he said of Vaughan's tackling efforts.

"Sometimes you can't avoid those tackles. There was too many of them. They're pretty hard to avoid."