BEN GARCIA will be back for the business end of the season after a successful recovery from a broken arm.
The Catalans Dragons captain told League Express he will be “twice as competitive” when he returns for the last game of the regular season and a potentially historic semi-final in Perpignan.
The 28-year-old French international loose forward broke his forearm in July during a home game against Hull KR and the Dragons feared they would lose their leader for the rest of the season.
But successful surgery and rapid healing has put Garcia back into contention as Catalans continue to push for a tilt at the Super League title.
He said, “Everything has gone really well with the fracture, all the scans have been good, and it feels right too.
“Apart from lacking a bit of mobility, which I am working very hard on, I’m almost ready to go.
“I am hoping that I will be able to return for the last game of the regular season at Wigan. I won’t take any risks but I will definitely be ready for the semi-final.”
The injury is a repeat of a fracture he received while playing down under early in his career, as he explained: “I broke the same arm in the same place back in 2012 in Australia in the semi-final of the Queensland Cup with Wynnum Manly. It healed okay then, but this time I have had some screws put in there and it feels much stronger.
“After that first break I always wore an arm guard, but for the last season or so I stopped wearing it. I’ve got a new one now and I will never take it off for the rest of my career, just in case.”
Garcia admits to feelings of frustration, having been sidelined for the past six weeks, but he intends to turn those feelings around once he gets back on the pitch.
He said, “It’s really hard for me to sit back and watch the team play. I am a competitor and I really miss that feeling in the sheds just before the game.
“I am not good company sitting in the stands watching a game and the only positive I can think of from this is that I will be twice as competitive when I get back.”
The promotion of reserve-team players during the absence of senior stars like Garcia has been a big success for Catalans, with promising debuts for several young players so far this season.
“I have seen our young French players stepping up into the first team, they have worked really hard to get that shirt,” he added.
“It has been creeping in over the past couple of years and I can only see it increasing. Our President Bernard Guasch has made it clear that this what he wants and it is only right that we give opportunities to play at the very top.
“Our reserves are a very young side and they play every week against the likes of Sam Moa, Mickael Simon and Anthony Maria in the Elite One league and they have learned so much for such a young age.
“We did all of our pre-season training with the juniors and it has obviously benefitted them, but the first team also gets a boost from the energy and enthusiasm they bring.
“Players like Matthieu Laguerre and Mathieu Cozza, Joe Chan and Jordan Dezaria have got some first-grade games under their belt now and they will agree that they are not quite Super League players yet but they are learning fast and it is only a matter of time before they are playing regularly at the top.”
A further boost for young French talent could soon be the promotion of Toulouse Olympique to Super League and Garcia thinks that would be a massive boost for the game in France.
He said, “I hope Toulouse will soon be in Super League. It would also help with the development of the French competition, which is semi-pro at the moment. The successes of Catalans and Toulouse are really drawing attention to the French game.
“Added to this, the news that a Rugby League World Cup is being planned here for 2025 is fantastic and I’m sure it will be a great success.
“We all know how hard the new President of the French Federation, Luc Lacoste, is working to develop the game and with the strides being made by Bernard Guasch and everyone at Toulouse to bring in sponsorship and commercial support there is a real sense of positivity here.
“The communication between the professional clubs and the Federation is much better now, I know that Steve McNamara and Sylvain Houles are keen to work with the French national side and we have already had several successful training camps as we prepare for the World Cup in the UK.
“The Federation understands how long and demanding a Super League season is on the players, but we are all working together at the moment to find the best way forward.”
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