Jack de Belin, Brian Johnston and Paul McGregor.
Jack de Belin, Brian Johnston and Paul McGregor.

Dragons boss will walk away after de Belin trial

ST George Illawarra Illawarra are set for their second major shake-up in as many years with club boss Brian Johnston quitting the club.

Johnston will stay on as chief executive until the end of Jack de Belin's rape trial in March and help the Dragons deal with the fallout from the serious allegations raised against their star player.

The Dragons confirmed Johnson's departure on Tuesday, less than a week after they handed down their much-vaunted season review - which resulted in a massive eight staff changes.

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Johnston told chairman Andrew Gordon last month of his decision to walk away for personal reasons.

De Belin's trial is due to start on February 3.

The Dragons play their first regular season match against the Wests Tigers on March 15 and it is unclear if the Dragons will have a replacement CEO by then.

The Dragons' board of directors will meet later this month to start discussions on Johnson's replacement.

Staff and players were told of the impending changes on Tuesday.

Dragons CEO Brian Johnston with Souths assistant Mark Ellison. Picture: Brett Costello
Dragons CEO Brian Johnston with Souths assistant Mark Ellison. Picture: Brett Costello

It is Johnston's second stint as St George Illawarra boss after leading the joint venture in their inaugural season in 1999.

His latest tenure only began last season when he took over from long-serving chief executive Peter Doust, having previously served as the Dragons' chairman.

"The past 12 months as CEO of St George Illawarra has been a challenging yet enjoyable experience," Johnston said in a statement.

"I have made this decision to focus on my family and the farm back home in Dunedoo.

Jack de Belin and Josh Kerr collide at the Dragons’ pre-season training in Wollongong. Picture: Dylan Robinson.
Jack de Belin and Josh Kerr collide at the Dragons’ pre-season training in Wollongong. Picture: Dylan Robinson.

"I look forward to the next four months overseeing an exciting pre-season following the completion of the club's extremely important football department review."

Johnston has consolidated the club's new ownership structure with WIN Corporation and has spent the bulk of his time in charge dramatically changing the club's management structure.

The former Australian player oversaw the exit of a number of the club's former leadership team, many of whom had spent more than a decade in their roles. Johnston has also dealt with a range of high-profile issues including de Belin's charges, former skipper Gareth Widdop's exit and fan unrest following poor on-field performances.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor will start season 2020 under pressure. Picture: AAP
Dragons coach Paul McGregor will start season 2020 under pressure. Picture: AAP

The appointment of the new boss looms as critical for the Dragons, whose coach Paul McGregor starts the season under immense pressure.

Doust and Johnston have been the joint venture's only bosses after Doust took over from Johnston midway through 2000.

It is unclear if Johnston will remain on the board, which is now chaired by WIN executive chair Andrew Gordon - who has been on the board since 2006.

News Corp Australia

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