Rémi Casty plays Rugby League with all the subtlety of a boulder thundering down the slopes of the Pyrenées and, after 14 seasons in the top-flight, there is no sign that this rolling rock is ready to stop.
Casty called time on his international career as captain of France two years ago so he could concentrate on his role as leader of the pack at Stade Gilbert Brutus. Operating from prop or loose-forward, there is no sign that his ferocious appetite for the game is dwindling and, at 35, he still feels he has a lot to offer.
“I’m not finished yet!” Casty told League Express when asked about his plans for the future.
His team-mates, fellow forwards Mickael Simon and Antoni Maria, have both agreed to switch to French Elite One league clubs at the end of this season, but Casty isn’t considering that option. His current two-year deal expires this year but he’s keen to roll on.
“I still think I can perform at this level but when my time comes I don’t think I will play anywhere else. I think what Mika and Antoni are doing is fantastic for French Rugby League and they will help to improve the standards in Elite One.
“But when I think I cannot play at the top level, I will finish playing altogether. But I won’t leave the game that I love; I will help out anywhere I can in some kind of coaching role if possible, but I’m a competitor and I want to play at the highest level every time.
“When I cannot do that, it’s time to stop.”
Apart from a brief stint with Sydney Roosters in the NRL, Casty has been a one-club man for Les Dracs. He was there when the club entered Super League in 2006 and his pugnacious, combative style has been a constant feature of Catalans’ progress on the pitch over the years.
He admits that this year has been the most difficult he has encountered in blood and gold, and his frustrations will be out there for all to see in the opening exchanges of the restarted season.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” he said.
“We started the season well, the new players had fitted in quickly and, even though we lost the first game, we started to play some good footy.
“The combinations were clicking and we clocked up three wins in a row, so it was massively frustrating to have to stop, especially for so long.
“Four months out of the game for a professional player is crazy. We’re all so passionate about playing the game and it is difficult to just turn it on and off.
“It will be a physical challenge, but mentally too the players will have to deal with the pressure of big games every week, sometimes twice a week. That’s tough on your mind as well as your body.
“It’s going to be difficult because we now have to play a lot of games in a short turnaround and the intensity is going to build as the season progresses.
“At the same time we have to adapt to the new rules. Even though I think the changes will be good for the game, I think they should have waited until next season to bring them in.
“The six-again is a great idea and it really speeds up the game, but when we’re playing twice a week and backing up fixtures I think it will take its toll.
“It looks great in the NRL, but they only play one game a week so I think they are maybe asking too much of the Super League players.
“On the plus side, we are already preparing to bring in some of the younger French players in our squad because they will definitely be called upon at some stage and, who knows, something really good can come out of this terrible year. Maybe we will discover another French player who will make it to the top.
“Every game is tough in Super League and our opening five games, all involving flights to and from the UK, will test the fitness of our squad. I suppose we are all in the same boat; each team will have their own difficulties when the season has been shortened like this.
“But this is our job, this is what we chose and most of the time we love it,” said Casty with a broad smile.
It remains to be seen whether Catalans can continue their early form of this staggered season, but the Dragons’ captain believes a second, and maybe even a third trophy for Super League’s French club is within reach.
“Whoever wins Super League this year will have done it the hard way,” he said.
“It’s going to be incredibly tough and a massive strain on the resources of all clubs.
“But we’ve certainly got the players and if we can pull together collectively then we will definitely be contending for those top spaces. There are two trophies still to play for and we have as much chance as anyone of taking them.
“When you sign a guy like James Maloney or Izzy Folau it won’t be long before you’re competing for trophies and if we can do this at the end of this year it would be even more special.
“We won’t be perfect straight away because it’s been a long time without training or playing together. Lockdown has had an effect on all of the teams but once we get into the rhythm I think we will be difficult to stop.”
Casty is prepared for a jet-set lifestyle in August, flying in and out of Britain, but he’s got one eye on home as he looks forward to Monday September 7th when Leeds Rhinos will be in Perpignan for the first match at the Brutus since March.
He said, “We have this month in Britain, and they are all tough games, but the one we are most looking forward to is when we return to the Brutus in front of our own supporters.
“I know we cannot have full crowds, but just to play in front of the sponsors and season ticket holders will go some way towards repaying their support during this terrible year.
“There is nothing quite like the passion of the Dragons fans and it will be incredible when we see some familiar faces at the ground.
“We have the players to be able to do it this year, there is no reason why we cannot give the supporters something to smile about. This club is very special and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to lift another trophy wearing the blood and gold.
“And who knows, maybe next season too?”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.