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Bennett, Barrett, Henry in Dragons' sights

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 Canberra Times

Wayne Bennett, Trent Barrett and Neil Henry top St George Illawarra's shopping list for a new NRL head coach after Steve Price was sacked on Monday.

After taking over at the joint venture from Bennett in 2012, Price's tenure at the Dragons had come under increasing scrutiny as they stumbled through this season, winning just one of their last seven games.

Bennett, who finally brought premiership success to the Dragons in 2010, appears likely to leave Newcastle at the end of the season after Nathan Tinkler's exit from the Knights.

Gold Coast assistant Neil Henry has helped mould the Titans into a finals contender this season following his axing from the North Queensland last year.

NSW coach Laurie Daley has been linked to the role but he remains contracted to the Blues for the 2015 State of Origin series.

Price's assistant Paul McGregor, who has enjoyed lower grade coaching success, has been installed in a caretaker role ahead of the Dragons' round 11 clash against South Sydney and is also in the mix to permanently take over.

As is his former Illawarra Steelers teammate Barrett.

Currently working under Ivan Cleary at Penrith, Barrett has impressed in his role as NSW assistant and Country mentor.

Barrett's manager Wayne Beavis said the former Dragons pivot would consider a return to the joint venture as coach.

"If the right job came up he would certainly consider it," Beavis said.

"He is there at Penrith as long as he wants, they love him there.

"But if he was offered a head coaching role, they wouldn't stand in his way.

"So it's not an issue.

"But we haven't been approached."

McGregor left the NSW State of Origin team camp on Sunday night to fly back to Wollongong and take over the team's preparation, though he is to return to Brisbane on Wednesday for the opening game of the series that night.

Chief executive Peter Doust said the Dragons' board decided Price had to go as he hadn't been able to deliver results required following the addition of big name signings including Josh Dugan and Gareth Widdop, having missed the finals in his previous two seasons in charge.

Under Price the Dragons have slumped to 13th on the ladder after a promising season start of three straight wins.

"Unfortunately team performance and results have not met the required standards, particularly this season despite a refresh of performance management strategies and structure at the end of last year and a significant change to the playing roster," Doust said in a statement.

"Whilst we can never predict the future the board determined that change was required for the balance of the 2014 season."

McGregor said it was a difficult time and situation for everyone at the Dragons.

"The board wanted the change to be as simple as possible for the players and for their sake I agreed," said McGregor, a former captain of the team.

"This is a difficult situation for me.

"Steve Price is a good friend of mine and we have worked closely together and I would have liked us to work through these tough times as one.

"This change will be a new challenge for the players to face but we have a good football team and good group of men."

Price was gracious in his exit.

"I am grateful for the opportunities that the Dragons have provided me over all my years associated with the club and would like to thank all involved," Price said.

"I'd like to wish Paul and the playing group all the very best."

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