Self-isolation and social distancing is in full swing and boredom is beginning to emerge. At Total Rugby League, we hopefully have an antidote to prevent even just a fraction of you from falling out of love with the game. Plus, to be honest, we’re with you in the ‘hunting for things to do’ department, so count this as a filler of time for us too. Henceforth, we present the “Self-isolation Chronicles.” It’s fairly straight forward, we post five random facts about each Super League club over the next few days. It’s your job to top them on social media or on the Total RL Forum. We’re on the lookout for the obscure. The fact that Hull FC became the first Super League side to field a Greek-born player, at any level, when Doncaster’s Stefanos Bastas played for their reserves last year. Alternatively, the fact that Catalans Dragons had to beat the bids of Toulouse Olympique and Villeneuve Leopards to join Super League in 2006. Don’t just limit yourself to the post-1996 land of mergers and Sky TV, either, if you know anything about the Great Split in 1895 you will trump us fairly comprehensively. Today’s club: Catalans Dragons.
1. Steve McNamara once missed a flight to Perpignan to sign a player.
There’s a sad comic twist to this story now, given he is the Catalans coach. McNamara was at Bradford Bulls at the time, however, when has intending to fly out to meet Adam Mogg to join his squad. The future England coach left the former Queensland representative waiting, as McNamara had missed his flight. The reason? He’d failed to realise he hadn’t changed his clock. In the end, Mogg decided to remain in France. It’s hard not to assume that McNamara’s timekeeping was a factor, as well. We can just picture him on the way to Perpignan when he was coach, with fifteen watches all changed to French local time.
2. Israel Folau was banned from carrying water.
We know there’s a section of supporters who lobbied for Folau to be banned from playing in Super League, after his well-documented religious views, but would you let him be a water-carrier? Australian Rugby League didn’t, in 2010, after chief executive Geoff Carr waged a one-man war against the current Catalans star. The reason being was that Folau had decided mid-season to head for Aussie Rules, joining Greater Western Sydney, but he still played out the 2010 NRL season. Despite an albeit controversial selection for Queensland and 17 tries in 16 games for Brisbane Broncos, Folau was banned from playing in the Four Nations for Australia or even Tonga. For a Tongan pre-tournament game against Samoa at Parramatta Stadium, in which Folau was also banned, he intended to run the water and act as a trainer. That was blocked, as well. It would seem Super League is a lot more forgiving…
3. A former player’s wife became the sport’s first female professional head coach.
Frédéric Zitter was a founding member of the Catalans Dragons Super League side in 2006, after earning notoriety from his try for France against Australia in 2004. Zitter played for Limoux, Featherstone Rovers and Barrow Raiders, before joining the Dragons – where he made a solitary appearance. His wife, Audrey, would later go on to become the first female professional head coach, in the world of Rugby League, heading up Elite 2 side Montpellier Diables Rouges (Red Devils) from 2013-2016, after taking up a job in the National Technical Framework set-up in 2009. Her father, André Janzac, is the current Deputy National Technical Director of the French Rugby League Federation. Her brother meanwhile, former France international Olivier Janzac, has worked alongside her in the National Technical Framework, won two Elite 1 titles as sporting director of Limoux, coached the national women’s team and has served as assistant for the men’s team, as well. Clearly Frédéric and Audrey’s two sons have a family tradition to uphold.
4. They broke new ground by appointing a wheelchair-bound coach.
France were first to the punch for the first female coach and they also became the home of the first wheelchair-bound coach, as well. In 2016, Catalans promoted video analyst Cyril Torres to the role of women’s head coach. In doing so, the 39-year-old became the first ever wheelchair-bound Rugby League coach, after he had sadly become paraplegic following a car accident in 2001. Torres has always endeared to the Catalans, after attending high school with David Berthezene, Jerome Guisset and Laurent Frayssionous, and he later took up Wheelchair Rugby League. He then featured for Catalans’ Wheelchair side, winning the French double at the peak of his power, before embarking on an amazing Rugby League journey. He later played for Canterbury Bulldogs, in Australia, and Leeds Rhinos, in England, becoming the first Wheelchair player to win the domestic competition in all three of the major countries. He also captained France to World Cup victory in 2013, over England, before doing the same in a repeat final in 2017. Clearly Torres has the credentials to go the distance in the sport of Rugby League.
5. Pascal Jampy waited almost a decade for another crack at Super League.
Patience is a virtue and Pascal Jampy evidently has it in abundance. The French international was a member of the Paris Saint-Germain team who became the first Super League side from the country, between 1996 and 1997. Once that expansion attempt folded, he joined the merged Union Treiziste Catalane side, after featuring for France at the 1995 and 2000 World Cups. His patience would eventually pay dividends, becoming the only man to feature for Catalans and PSG in Super League, in 2006, meaning he had to wait almost 10 years for another appearance in the competition. Further links to PSG can be stretched to Jason Baitieri and Fouad Yaha, whose fathers Tas Baiteri (chief executive) and Bagdad Yaha (player) were also involved in the pioneering move. In 2010, Catalans also failed in a move to bring former PSG coach John Kear to the club from Wakefield.