Catalans Dragons are searching the globe for a top-flight recruit following the sudden departure of Fiji international Brayden Wiliame.
The 26-year-old centre, who had a year left on his current contract in Perpignan, was released on compassionate grounds for family reasons and is expected to join the NRL’s Dragons (St George Illawarra) as revealed last week in League Express.
Wiliame leaves a big hole in the Catalans’ squad just six weeks before the start of the new Super League season. But coach Steve McNamara is refusing to panic.
“We’re obviously looking for a replacement but there’s no immediate rush,” he said.
“I don’t expect anything to happen before Christmas, but you never know, these things can happen overnight.”
McNamara said he was happy with the strength of his current squad and the versatility of his players.
“We’ve got a number of players who can step in at centre so maybe we won’t recruit another specialist threequarter.
“We’ve got several options and we won’t be rushed into making decisions. We’ve got really good contacts both in the UK and down under and there are some extremely good young players here in France, so we could promote a junior or reserve to the senior squad.”
The Dragons’ chief said his search for a new recruit would not be limited to current off-contract talent, adding: “We will go through the correct channels and we’ve seen in recent seasons that clubs and players are increasingly willing to discuss their options mid-contract.
“So maybe it will be a player who is currently mid-term and not necessarily one that is immediately available. As long as we abide by the rules and are fully open with everyone, nobody is off-limits.”
McNamara paid tribute to Wiliame’s contribution to the Catalans, adding: “He will be a big loss to our team, his commitment and development as a player here has been a pleasure to see and he always gave his all in every game.
“We didn’t expect to be in this situation, but family comes first and we fully understand Brayden’s reasons for wanting to go back home to Australia. We wish him all the best.”
Wiliame was born in New South Wales and has previous NRL experience, playing for Parramatta and Manly. He joined Catalans in 2017 and made 72 appearances for the club, including a try-scoring performance in the Challenge Cup final last year.
Following his decision to return home, Wiliame told League Express: “I want to thank Bernard (Guasch – club President) and the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to come to the Dragons and it’s been an experience I will cherish forever.
“I’d like to thank supporters and everybody at the club for making me and my family so welcome and wish the club all the very best for the future.”
In other news from Perpignan, Dragons’ second-row forward Mickael Goudemand will miss the start of the new season following surgery on a long-standing finger injury. The 23-year-old French international had an operation last week in an attempt to finally resolve issues with a middle finger, which was badly dislocated while playing in a match last May.
A club spokesman said: “The operation was successful and Mickael should be available to play in around 12 weeks’ time.”
© League Express (Mon 16th Dec 2019)