Catalans await French government decision on financial aid

Catalans Dragons are keeping their powder dry for an assault on Super League 2021, as they are still awaiting financial aid from the French government.

Club President Bernard Guasch (pictured) has met with Sports Ministry officials, outlining the impact Covid-19 has had on the Dragons’ resources and he is still awaiting a formal decision on how much assistance, if any, is available.

A club spokesman told League Express: “All the administration staff at the Dragons have been placed on Chómage (French partial unemployment benefit) and our offices are closed. The meeting has taken place with the government and we are waiting for the answer before we can decide what to do next.”

The Dragons made massive losses last season, mainly due to transport costs for unbudgeted bio-secure air travel to and from the UK and Guasch has stressed that it is essential that they receive government funding if the club is to move forward.

Catalans are already benefitting from a local authority rent reduction for their tenancy at Stade Gilbert Brutus but the club needs further assistance as it makes plans for next season.

Dragons coach Steve McNamara has returned home to Hull to be with his family but has still overseen the formal announcement of Castleford Tigers’ second rower Mike McMeeken on a two-year contract in Perpignan and Catalans are expected to announce the acquisition of Salford prop Gil Dudson this week, but any further recruits will have to await a decision on government aid.

The club has agreed a new two-year deal with Matt Whitley and are still in negotiations with Jason Baitieri and Arthur Mourgue on possible extensions. Meanwhile, prop Sam Moa is the sixth recent departure from the squad and he has joined Elite One side Lezignan under French national coach Aurélien Cologni.

McNamara is keen to promote young players at the club and he said 26-year-old McMeeken is now part of those plans, adding: “Michael is a high-quality signing for the club.

“His sheer size and athleticism combined with his ability to be an 80-minute player, make him quite unique and he suits the modern game. At the age of 26 he is coming into his prime years and I’m excited about the qualities he will bring for the team.

“And in Matt Whitley we have a young player whose performances have been consistently good for us. He has progressed and matured significantly in his last two seasons in France.

“There’s going to be fierce competition for second-row slots next season. There will be a change of role for Joel Tomkins and he’s happy with our plans to play him more in the middle of the field where we think his individual strengths will be more effective.

“With Mike now we’ve got some really good strike in our back row. At the same time, a couple of younger guys in Joe Chan and Corentin Le Cam are knocking on the door. They are really going to put pressure on the regular first-teamers.

“These two players will play an important role in the process of developing a younger playing squad at the Dragons, which we feel is essential if we are to cross that final hurdle of breaking into that exclusive Grand Final winners’ club.

“There will be another announcement this week which leaves two overseas slots still available but I can’t see any further recruitment than that.

“Whatever the French government decides in terms of financial aid I don’t think it will change the direction in which we are trying to take the squad.”

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