If you possibly can, try and cast your mind all the way back to the beginning of March. Spring was in the air, relegation seemed a long way away for Bradford and London, and the most successful Rugby League World Cup in history was still fresh in the memory.
In fact, one of the main reasons relegation wasn’t a certainty for either Bradford or London at that point was due to the stuttering form of Catalan Dragons. Well, stuttering would be an understatement actually – given how they had just lost their opening five games of the season.
A large bulk of their squad was competing in the aforementioned World Cup at the back end of 2013, and coach Laurent Frayssinous was facing a fair old amount of pressure as the Dragons were staring down the barrel at a potential relegation battle.
However, fast forward six months, and the Dragons are on the verge of creating even more history than they already have done in their nine-year existence. They’re already the first team to get to a play-off semi-final from seventh position on the ladder – and a win tonight against St Helens would see them reach their first ever Super League Grand Final.
Throughout the entire time that Frayssinous has been quietly launching an assault on the play-offs with the French side, the likes of Widnes Vikings and Castleford Tigers have been grabbing all the headlines, with the Tigers especially performing admirably throughout 2014.
When the awards are handed out at the annual bash next Wednesday, many expect Daryl Powell to be named Super League Coach of the Year for his heroics with Cas. And whilst very few people could argue with that decision, is it as clear-cut as everyone assumes?
After all, this is the Super League Coach of the Year award. And whilst Castleford did brilliantly to finish fourth on the ladder, they have exited the play-offs with two consecutive defeats – as well as a heavy loss to the Dragons in the final round of the season.
Could Frayssinous, a man who was considered to be close to the sack five weeks into the season, eventually turn out to be voted as Super League’s best coach in 2014? It will be tough, as Powell as plenty of things in his favour to stake a claim for the award, as do the likes of Nathan Brown at St Helens.
But the miracles Catalan have achieved in the last three weeks have been nothing short of remarkable – and victory tonight (Thursday) against the Saints would surely put him in pole position for that award. The Dragons have snapped their nasty away form – which probably cost them a tilt at the top four – and look to be getting it right on the road at long last.
Some will argue that over the course of a 27 week season, Powell has done far more than Frayssinous to deserve the gong next week. And whilst nobody at TotalRL.com is making predictions about the destination of the award, Frayssinous’ superb rejuvenation of Catalan deserves a heck of a lot of credit.
And if they do the unthinkable and actually reach the Grand Final, all of a sudden, there might be a few more people throwing the Frenchman’s name into the hat.