Catalans Dragons will come back down to earth next season after two years of being Super League’s jet-setters.
The travel restrictions of Covid meant that private flights were the only option for travel to and from the UK since the pandemic struck. But the return of available commercial flights means the club can now avoid the huge costs incurred and use regular services.
Coach Steve McNamara admitted that the private flights had benefited his players because of the quick matchday turnarounds but they weren’t financially viable indefinitely.
He told League Express, “We’re looking at all options. It’s clear that the private jet does help us, but you have to balance out the costs now there are other options available.
“We might use private flights for some games and regular flights for others. Our board will decide that for us, but we will have a mixture of travel arrangements depending upon the fixtures.
“It might suit us to stay in England for a few days if we have back-to-back away games and a combination of the different travel arrangements will be good for us.
“We have had to be extremely flexible over the past couple of years and a bit of variation does you no harm in all walks of life.”
McNamara has overseen his second week of pre-season training and he said he was impressed with his players’ attitude so far.
He added, “I think they are very hungry and extremely keen to get over the disappointment of the ending to last season and I sense a keenness to get back to work.
“They know what they have to do now to go one better and that is start again from the very beginning and do the basics. They understand that we can’t just expect to be at that same level, reaching a Grand Final, without a lot of hard work.
“Their attitude and desire is first class and they have been outstanding so far in the first two weeks; there is clearly a hunger to improve and I’m happy so far with where everybody’s at.
“It’s been a bit cold, wet and wild for the first two weeks; it’s always very windy here at this time of the year and it has been perfect preparation for those first two months of games in England.”
The squad will have to wait for the arrivals of three new Australian signings Mitchell Pearce, Dylan Napa and Tyrone May, who will land in Perpignan after Christmas.
Pearce will step into the boots of his former Sydney Roosters and State of Origin team-mate James Maloney at stand-off, while Napa will replace the retired Joel Tomkins in the pack.
However, May is expected to fulfil a utility roll according to McNamara, who added: “Tyrone will play anywhere and everywhere, that’s the best way to describe it; his intuitive skills to be able to play in so many positions to such a high standard really adds depth to our squad.
The Dragons will break for Christmas on December 22nd then return to training on January 3rd, with the entire squad assembling before a pre-season game against Toulouse at the end of the month.
There was a capacity attendance of 1,200 supporters at last week’s season-launch party in Perpignan and McNamara believes the successes of last season have taken the club to new levels in the region.
He added, “It was outstanding to see so many people there reflecting upon last season and getting a glimpse of what lies ahead.
“There is a great ambience over here amongst everybody at the club and outside of it too.
“The publicity generated by our first appearance in a Grand Final has had a huge impact on everyone around here.”
The club awards were made at the ceremony, with Sam Tomkins taking the Player of the Season trophy, although it was another Sam who got the biggest cheer of the night with the Players’ Player award.
“Sam Tomkins was rightly Man of Steel because he had an outstanding season, but players vote immediately after every match and it is clear that they have appreciated the momentum-shifts that Sam Kasiano brought to the games,” said McNamara.
“We had many players who raised their game last year and he was up there with the best.
“Gaining that vote from your fellow players is very special and I know he appreciates it.”
Kasiano couldn’t attend the awards night as he is still in Australia with the blessing of his coach.
McNamara said, “Sam is still back home down under alongside Samisoni Langi and Josh Drinkwater and he will return after Christmas.
“I gave those players the opportunity to go back because I felt it was the most important thing for them.
“If they are going to be good for us again next season it was crucial that they got to go home and spend time with their families.
“They haven’t had the chance for two years, so I have no issues at all with it and they will come back better for it in the New Year.”
Catalans supporters will have to wait until the New Year for the chance to see the playing kit for season 2022 until negotiations with a new major sponsor are concluded.
Italian sportswear manufacturers Macron have replaced O’Neills at Stade Gilbert Brutus and they are awaiting the green-light to release the new Dragons’ kit.
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