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An emotional Paul McGregor predicts a swift turnaround for the Dragons, defending the club's culture after ending a 25-year association with the red and white.

McGregor was farewelled with a stirring 14-12 upset of premiership frontrunners Parramatta on Friday night, before similarly moving scenes in the St George Illawarra sheds.

Captain Cameron McInnes presented McGregor with the jersey he wore, a gesture the outgoing coach described as "one of the best presents I've ever got in my life from a person that I admire the way he plays the game and leads the club."

McGregor described his final day as Dragons coach, following his rise as a Steelers great and inaugural co-captain of the joint-venture over 20 years ago, as an "emotional" and "special" occasion.

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Since a 2018 finals run McGregor's side has struggled without key players in Jack de Belin (no fault stand-down policy) and Gareth Widdop (injury before departing for England), while several representative stars have also underperformed in that period.

But given the quality roster interim coach Dean Young takes charge of, McGregor believes results will take care of themselves soon enough for the Dragons, pointing to the Eels upset as proof of a tightknit club.

"There was a lot of talk they weren't a tight group and they weren't playing for me, but that was too far from the truth, and they showed that tonight," McGregor said.

"The last 18 months; in 2018 we were pretty much unbeatable for most of the year and building really well; but in the last 18 months we just haven't been able to put those players on the park all together for different reasons.

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"You only need to miss a couple of important players to lose close games. When you lose close games everything's spoken about.

"And that's what's happened at the place, everyone's speaking about all the negative things. There's a lot of good things in the organisation.

"For me, I think they've got a good leader in Dean. He's a good coach, a good person, he bleeds red and white. They've got a playing group that wants to play hard.

"And once we get healthy and get a full roster back they're going to be a very good footy team. Is there things to do there? Of course there is. But they've got the right people around to get it done."

McGregor will spend his first day out of the Dragons COVID visiting his ill father in hospital, who he hasn't been able to see for three months due to the NRL's biosecurity restrictions.

The now 52-year-old had to be coaxed into playing top grade footy for the Steelers in the early 90s, a similar path saw McGregor begin his coaching career as he juggled successful business interests in Wollongong.

Having started out in strength and conditioning before progressing through the ranks to take charge in 2014, McGregor is keen to continue in an NRL role in the future, be it in charge or as an assistant elsewhere.

For now though, he offered perspective on a 25-year journey for first his own junior club, then one of the most famous in rugby league land.

"You start off as a player and that journey is a great one," McGregor said.

"Then you become a captain, a club captain and a staff member and then a coach.

"It has been a series of privileges the whole way through, I've never felt like it's an obligation.

"The close-out speech was something I will remember and some of the words said by some of the players were very special."

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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