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how the charity shield could shape the futures of key league men

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how the charity shield could shape the futures of key league men

paul mcgregor is fully aware he may not be employed at st george illawarra long enough to coach ben hunt.

mcgregor's future was one of the topics broached at the launch of the charity shield, although there were other talking points. like the fact south sydney coach michael maguire refused to guarantee marquee recruit robbie farah the first crack at hooker in his opening-round grudge match against wests tigers.

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both coaches have important decisions to make about their best line-up. in mcgregor's case, they could be career-defining. hunt has inked a six-year, $6 million deal with the dragons, but he won't arrive in time to help the club's sputtering attack in 2017. a long-term injury to drew hutchison has left the race for the red v's halfback spot wide open, with josh mccrone, kurt mann, jai field and shaun nona the contenders.

mcgregor is off contract at the end of the season and under pressure after the joint-venture outfit failed to make the play-offs last year. the dragons have more than 20 players off contract but it's likely the most scrutiny will be on whether mcgregor can perform well enough to warrant a new deal.

under pressure: st george coach paul mcgregor knows he needs to deliver this season.
under pressure: st george coach paul mcgregor knows he needs to deliver this season. p o: john veage

"i'm real comfortable, to be totally honest," mcgregor said of the pressure he is under.

"the first year we made the eight and last year wasn't a success. this year is real important for me.

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"i believe the pressure as a coach is a privilege. if you're not under any pressure, you're not really needed any more. to be a coach in the nrl there is always some deal of pressure. if i can shoulder that and keep it away from the players, their performance doesn't have to suffer, i'll be one happy chap."

mcgregor was philosophical about what the future holds.

"football has been important to me, it's a big part of my life. i've done other things in life as well and my main focus is creating an environment where the players play at their best. everything else will look after itself."

mcgregor said he had no qualms about throwing inexperienced youngster field an nrl debut should he outshine the other contenders during the pre-season. however, another selection dilemma, this time a welcome one, was facing opposing coach maguire.

most pundits are expecting farah to wear the no.9 jersey in round one, although maguire said he had "no idea" whether he would prefer the nsw hooker to fellow rake damien cook.

asked how much the charity shield would impact on his decision, maguire said: "a lot. how they perform is all i'll judge off moving forward.

"how we mix those two together will be enjoyable to start the season and working out which way we go.

"there's been a lot of talk about robbie, but i want his actions to do the talking.

"i'm fortunate i have two very good no.9s; they've been complementing each other, and i think both of them will bring the best out of each other. the experience of robbie in key moments and through training, he's been able to share that, and i'm really looking forward to working with him."