Dragons swoop for Kiwi star

Catalans Dragons have found their first recruit of the new year with the signature of Penrith Panthers centre Dean Whare.

The 31-year-old Kiwi international is a direct replacement for David Mead, who has returned to the NRL with Brisbane Broncos.

Dragons Coach Steve McNamara is keen to complete his squad for 2021 and, although he wouldn’t confirm the latest signing, he told League Express: “We are continuing to look closely at finding a couple of overseas recruitments and we’re potentially going to be able to announce something along those lines very soon.”

Sources down under say Whare is a done deal and Catalans will confirm the signing this week.

Whare spent two years with Manly before switching to the Panthers in 2013 and representing both the Kiwis and New Zealand Maoris at international level.

Catalans are continuing to search for a second signing from down under whilst also monitoring the situation with centre Israel Folau, who is still in Australia dealing with a private family issue.

McNamara said, “The position is exactly the same at the moment regarding Israel Folau’s situation, there has been no change whatsoever and we are continuing to monitor things on a regular basis.”

The Catalans coach is keen to begin pre-season training at Stade Gilbert Brutus, but he is still awaiting permission and guidance from the French government about financial support and health restrictions due to Covid-19 virus control measures.

“There’s nothing we can do about it so there’s no point of worrying about things,” said McNamara, adding: “All we can do is hope for the best and prepare for every eventuality.

“Everybody is in the same situation at the moment and it’s not just in France, we’re well aware of the (Covid) problems at Huddersfield and Leeds and the individual difficulties that all teams are experiencing at the moment.

“We are just going along the path we are on until we get more information. There’s a suggestion that the French government is possibly preparing for a further lockdown but it seems it has been put on hold again for another week.

“So we are just in the same situation where we are waiting for advice.”

Dragons President Bernard Guasch has told local media that the club was preparing for a worst-case scenario of moving to the UK for the opening stages of the season if international travel restrictions were in force. But he stressed that this would only be possible if Catalans were allowed to complete all of their home games later in the season.

McNamara added, “Our Chairman has made it clear what would be necessary for a potential period of playing games in the UK in the early stages of the new season, including a full home fixture list delayed until a later stage.

“Of course, we’re hoping that won’t be necessary. As it stands at the moment, the travel pathway is still open because elite sport is still permitted and moving to the UK is very much a last resort for us.

“There are so many variables at the moment that we have to cover all bases. One thing that is certain is that the financial security of the club is paramount and we are doing everything we can to ensure it gets through this difficult period.”

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