Interim St George Illawarra coach Dean Young has revealed he has received advice from seven-time premiership-winning mentor Wayne Bennett ahead of his first game in charge against Brisbane on Friday night.
Young, who took over the Dragons coaching reigns from Paul McGregor this week, played under Bennett in the club's 2010 premiership-winning team and remains in regular contact with the South Sydney coach.
The philosophies Bennett introduced to the club during his three-year tenure from 2009 to 2011 form the nucleus of a blueprint to identify the next St George Illawarra coach and Young has been given up to six weeks to prove he is the right man for the job.
While Young declined to provide details of his most recent conversation with Bennett, he confirmed the coaching guru had phoned him after he was appointed to the role last week.
"I speak to Wayne quite regularly," Young said. "He rang up and gave me a bit of advice. I'd tell you, but Wayne gets cranky when I tell people secrets so I'm not allowed to say."
Young values players that compete
Craig Fitzgibbon, Jason Ryles, Paul Green, Todd Payten and Anthony Griffin are other names linked to the position, while there has also been speculation that Bennett could work with Young in the role of coaching director.
"If the club decided to go down that path I'm comfortable working with anyone because I feel like that's a strength of mine," Young said of the possibility of the Dragons appointing a coaching director.
He also has a relationship with Griffin after they worked together under Kristian Woolf with the Tonga team that beat Australia and Great Britain at the end of last season.
Young takes control at Dragons
A meeting of the Dragons board on Tuesday night decided to seek a defence-orientated coach, who can instil discipline in his players and has been involved with a successful culture.
Young would meet each criteria.
After taking charge of the squad on Monday, Young told them the qualities he wanted in his players and they are similar to those which have characterised Bennett-coached teams for more than 30 years.
"I value players who compete, I value players that are disciplined and I value players who are consistent," Young said. "There is no grey in that. It's black and white for me. You either compete hard or you don't, you are disciplined or you are not and you are consistent or you are not.
"It's pretty easy for me to see and I let the players know on Monday that that is what I value so now it is over to them."
Young also believes in rewarding winning performances when possible and has ruled out rushing Kangaroos prop Paul Vaughan into the starting line-up after completing his 14-day isolation period following a breach of the NRL's strict bio-security guidelines on the eve of the round 13 clash with Sydney Roosters.
Vaughan, who will meet his teammates ahead of their flight to Brisbane, has been training on his own and will start on the interchange bench, with Jacob Host replacing the suspended Tyrell Fuimaono in the second row.
"I have been in contact with him a fair bit, he has been hooked up on Zoom so he hasn't missed any video sessions or any meetings that we have had this week and our performance staff have done an incredible job of making sure he is ready to play this weekend," Young said.
Will Dean Young be next head coach of Dragons?
"I like to stick with the side that gets the job done. That is not going to happen all the time, but I feel the blokes who started on the weekend got the job done against a stacked Parramatta side so I want to give them that opportunity again to start and see if they can be consistent and do the job again.
"Paul Vaughan is going to come off the interchange bench and I don't want to set him up to fail by starting him in a game when he has been away from the team for the last two weeks. He is going to come off the bench and he is going to have a role to play, and I am sure he will do it well."
Young, who admitted to "having butterflies" when he addressed the players for the first time as head coach on Monday, wouldn't confirm that he wanted the job full-time but admitted the next few weeks were an audition for the role.
"It obviously is but I'm pretty good at staying on task and the focus is the next six weeks. Ask me that question in six weeks time whether I want the job or not. I'll answer it then," he said.
"Every job has got its challenges but I wouldn't say there would be a heap of jobs where when the alarm goes off you jump out of bed. That's how I feel with footy.
"I've been blessed to play in the NRL for a long period of time and I've been involved ever since in a few different roles. I never take for granted what I've got. I'll try to do my best."