Dragons ready to shine in 2019, says Mead

David believes 2019 will be the year the Dragon takes flight and the Catalans shed their reputation for having big, physical teams.

“If you look at the combinations we will have from one to seven, we will have so many options that there will be a big difference next year,” Mead told League Express.

The PNG captain returned to training last week and met up with new scrum-half Matty Smith for the first time. Next week Sam Tomkins will arrive, along with former Widnes second-rower Matt Whitley.

Catalans are still seeking a winger, which will give coach Steve McNamara a welcome selection dilemma among the backs once the full squad is finalised.

Mead, Tomkins and Tony Gigot are all accomplished fullbacks who can be switched around with Lewis Tierney, Jodie Broughton and Brayden Wiliame. Samisoni Langi will partner Smith in the halves with Lucas Albert on standby.

Traditionally, Catalans have a reputation for heavyweight tactics with games often dominated by bruising forwards, particularly at their home ground.

And while it may be no less brutal at the Brutus next season, Mead believes his fellow backs will begin to shine.

The former Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane Broncos NRL star said: “I’ve only just got back after six weeks away, but already there is a difference in training.

“It’s the first time I’ve met Matty, but you can see immediately that he’s very fit, very skilful and very vocal. He talks a lot and seems to be a natural leader.

“And when you add Sam Tomkins to the mix it opens up many more opportunities.

“It’s up to us to take advantage of this. We need to use this time to prepare for the new season and work out the best combinations among the backs.

“We didn’t have any time last year because of World Cup commitments and I only joined up in January, so it wasn’t ideal.

“We were very unlucky with injuries early on, losing Samisoni and Luke Walsh in the first game, so it was no surprise that the results didn’t go our way.”

McNamara called upon Greg Bird and Albert to fill in at halfback, but nine defeats from the first eleven games set alarm bells ringing in Perpignan.

Mead admits they were dark days: “I wasn’t particularly happy with the way I was playing in the first half of the year. I was very frustrated by the way we started the season. I wish I could have done more to help change things around.

“The second half of the season showed what we were capable of. The big turning point for me was the Challenge Cup semi-final win over St Helens.

“We knew we had that kind of performance in us, but it was the first time we had followed the game plan and stuck to it. All of a sudden we had the confidence we needed to finish off the season the way we did.

“We have to step forward now and Steve (McNamara) has brought in some new faces, which can only improve the squad.

“I don’t know where I’ll be playing, but put me anywhere from one to five and as long as it’s with quality players I’m happy.

“The backs look strong for the new season and maybe it’s our time to shine.”

Mead has spent the past three weeks visiting friends and family in Australia, while the previous three weeks were with the Papua New Guinea squad for their drawn two-match series against England Knights.

“I really enjoyed the break but I’m ready to go again now,” he said.

“I wish the season started tomorrow.”
The Dragons have also signed Warrington Wolves centre Ben Pomeroy. The 34-year-old Australian played for Catalans in 2014-16 and will join the club’s new reserves team, which is made up from the bulk of last season’s now-disbanded Academy side.

Coach Benoit Albert said: “He comes here to bring his experience and to help this really young team to improve. He is a really professional player, both on and off the field, and is highly respected within our club.”

The Dragons have promoted 28-year-old prop forward Arnaud Barthés from the reserves to the first-team squad. Barthes recently returned from a loan spell at Barrow Raiders.