Dragons vow to bounce back

Catalans Dragons may have lost the Grand Final, but they finished the 2021 Super League season as winners in coach Steve McNamara’s eyes.

The Dragons’ chief said he was “enormously proud” of his players’ performances this year and he had no regrets about the whole campaign.

He told League Express, “We have no regrets; we put everything out there on the field in true Catalan style and we represented our club, our region and people superbly well.

“It’s so frustrating and disappointing to fall just two points short, but we have to deal with that and we have to improve moving forward.

“We are disappointed, but we will bounce back.

“Last Saturday, the team lost, we can’t hide from the fact that we were beaten by a great team, but the Catalans Dragons club won. We have won this season.

“We have opened so many doors, so many people’s eyes as to what Rugby League here is all about. What an achievement for French Rugby League, for Catalans, for Perpignan.”

McNamara said the 12-10 defeat to St Helens at Old Trafford had taken its toll on the players, who were still hurting but after a season of constant travelling. He urged his squad to get back on an aeroplane and take a well-earned holiday.

He added, “It was such a huge effort by everybody involved in our club just to try to get that win and we all need a break now, some time away to reflect properly on the season.

“After a Grand Final it’s almost impossible to maintain attention in the playing group, so after a quick meeting and assessment it’s time for everyone to go and recharge.

“The players and staff have invested nine or ten months of their lives completely and I could not have asked for more. There are no regrets and everyone deserves a good break now.”

McNamara said plans for new additions to the squad had been put on hold in the build-up to the end of the season, but he was now actively seeking new signings, adding: “We will recruit, I won’t say the exact number, but we are active in the market to replace some of our players with James Maloney, Jason Baitieri and Joel Tomkins leaving.

“But we’ve also got potential replacements from within. Our younger players have been outstanding this year and they are working their way through the pecking order.”

Catalans have been linked recently with NRL stars Mitchell Pearce and David Fusitu’a and another new recruit will be a replacement for Performance Manager Richard Hunwicks, who has left the Dragons, with a possible switch to French rugby union on the cards.

McNamara added, “Richard has been incredible for this club, the performance department has changed massively since we came and that is down to a whole group of people.

“There will be a couple of changes to staff, we will have a new Head of Performance coming in and a new assistant coach and we will refresh and progress. That is the constant message for our team and our club.”

The Dragons’ most successful season in Super League brought financial reward for the French club, earning £100,000 for finishing as league leaders and £200,000 for reaching the Grand Final, plus an additional £50,000 in gate receipts from their sell-out home semi-final against Hull Kingston Rovers.

A club spokesman told League Express, “These funds are extremely welcome following two years of massive expenditure by the club on transport and home games that we have had to sacrifice because of the virus.

“The club has made heavy losses over the past two years and this income will go towards recouping some of those losses and also investing in the future.”

Club President Bernard Guasch is awaiting news of any possible sanctions, following comments he made in Perpignan’s press about the standard of refereeing in the Grand Final.

Guasch was quoted as saying, “While I am owner of this club we will not take part in another major final unless there are three Australian referees in charge.”

RFL Controller of Referees Steve Ganson hit back at the President’s statement, adding, “To suggest a game is lost because of the referee alone is frankly ridiculous.

“The comments made by Mr Guasch have been passed to the compliance department for investigation.”

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