Catalans happy to contemplate return

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara is keen to play catch-up in any of the potential new scenarios to restart Super League.

A common factor in the latest proposals for season-resumption is the desire to allow clubs to complete any postponed games prior to full regular rounds taking place. With the Dragons already three matches behind some of their fellow clubs, McNamara is eager to tidy up his club’s outstanding fixtures.

He told League Express: “It’s a complicated scenario, but from a playing point of view we are really glad that we can be up and running early if the plans get signed off. All the clubs have to agree to the proposals and if we were able to start playing a couple of weeks before the others it would be good for us.

“The financial implications would need to be addressed, but if the costs can be met, of course we’d like to kick off as soon as possible.”

Catalans have missed out on fixtures at Wakefield in Round 2 (dangerous weather conditions), St Helens (World Club Challenge clashed with Round 4) and at home to Leeds in Round 7 after the Rhinos pulled out of travelling to Perpignan when player Joe Greenwood displayed potential signs of Covid-19, although he was later cleared of the virus.

Having played fewer games than any other club, McNamara said he was eager to restart as soon as possible, particularly as his players had been under the longest and most stringent lockdown procedures since the virus hit the game.

He added: “We last played over twelve weeks ago and we’ve still got eight weeks to go before a potential restart if we play on the first weekend of August. That’s a 20-week gap, so any sort of clarity or reference point to work to is really good for our group.

“From a playing perspective it’s great news, the sooner the better, but financially it raises a few issues. There are furlough and Chommage (French state aid) considerations for the clubs involved.

“But if there is a plan and a start date, even if you don’t agree with that or it’s not quite what you want, at least there is something there to work to and that is what everybody wants. There’s clearly some debate still on the end date, but at least we now have a starting point that we are all trying to work to.

“Most of the current plans are based around ensuring the sport is financially viable as we move forward and those plans revolve around furlough and government grants, players’ pay cuts and Sky TV money, which is so important at this stage.

“The clubs themselves have to decide how this all works out. The message has been coming through clearly that we are all in this together and we will need to support each other through this.”

McNamara says his players are feeling the effects of long-term isolation and it is essential that they returned to team training as soon as is safely possible to prepare them for an August restart.

He added: “The French were so strict on their lockdown, but for this past two weeks the players have had some more freedom and the ability to get out and train in pairs and see each other within social distancing rules.

“The weather’s picked up and they’re out in the fresh air and countryside and it’s plain to see that the boys are much happier. But the lockdown has affected them physically. They’ve actually lost weight while being at home, because while they’ve been training in isolation it cannot replicate the strength and conditioning programmes we do at the club, so there’s a lot of hard work ahead before any restart.

“There are so many factors to consider and it’s really important for us to get as much information as possible from the RFL, Super League and the people who are making decisions surrounding the situation in France, so we can make the correct decisions at the right time.”