Hornby picks pain for gain

Former skipper Ben Hornby is backing Paul McGregor’s club review. Picture: GREG TOTMAN


StGeorge Illawarra’slongest-serving player, Ben Hornby, admits there may be some short-term pain to come out of coach Paul McGregor’s full club review but he’s confident Brett Morris will be at the club next year.

McGregor made it clear when appointed to the job on a three-year deal four weeks ago, that tough decisions will be made to relieve salary-cap pressure on the roster he inherited from former coach Steve Price.

Star winger Morris has been strongly linked to a $600,000-a-year deal with the Bulldogs that would see him reunited with twin brother Josh. The future of fellow Origin star Trent Merrin has also come under a cloud after efforts to extend his deal earlier this year stalled amid Price’s sacking and the drawn-out process of naming a replacement.

Both are under contract for the 2015 season but would attract plenty of interest on the open market.

The salary-cap squeeze could see other players forced to look elsewhere, as McGregor works with recruitment guru Peter Mullholland to shape a new roster. Hornby – who captained the joint venture to its first premiership in 2010 – backed McGregor to guide the club through a difficult rebuilding phase.

“We’re in a bit of a transition stage,” Hornby said.

“We’ve obviously got to get the personnel Mary thinks can do the job and that’s what his priority is as a coach – to get the players he wants … With the salary cap and the juniors coming through, it’s a big job.

“There might be a bit of hurt in the short-term but I think there’ll be gains in the long-term.” Asked if it would be strange to see his long-time teammate Morris in anything other than the Red V, Hornby said: “Absolutely, but Brett’s not gone anywhere. He’s contracted for next year and so is Trent Merrin.”

Hornby was at the club during the Wayne Bennett clean-out in 2009 and said shake-ups like those facing the Dragons are inevitable as they look to move beyond the Bennett era.

“That era’s come to an end,” he said. “Pricey obviously changed the side when he was here as well. The side’s always changing, people get older and the salary cap makes it difficult for clubs to keep all their best players.”

Hornby said he and assistant Dean Young will contribute to McGregor’s review when their commitments with the Dragons NYC squad – who play Brisbane in the the preliminary final on Friday – are complete.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.