Written by Callum Walker
It’s a debate that happens every year; will this be the year that the Catalans Dragons finally reach the Super League play-offs and threaten the Grand Final?
The French side hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014, and, even then, it was when the Super League had a top eight system, rather than a top five or a top four as it has in 2020.
For a club that repeatedly brings in high-level recruitment from both the Super League and the NRL, this isn’t good enough and chairman Bernard Guasch has often been very vocal about his desire for the Catalans to become a silverware-hunting side.
Though Super League has always been an elusive target, the Dragons did become the first team outside of England to lift the Challenge Cup in 2018, defeating Warrington in the final after overcoming St Helens in the semis.
That kind of winning mentality has been missing from their Super League seasons, and, for whatever reason, the French club seems to drift off towards the back end of the year having started so well.
Well, with five wins from seven games, the Dragons have certainly started 2020 like a house on fire and have gone up a gear in particular since the resumption. Yes, they were defeated 34-6 by St Helens in the first game back, but Saints are certainly the ones to beat so far.
A 40-14 demolition of Castleford and then a 58-0 battering of Wakefield in successive weeks underlined the transformation that Catalans have gone through during lockdown. Impressive has suddenly turned into downright destructive as Steve McNamara’s men ready themselves for a second bite against Trinity in the Challenge Cup this weekend.
— The Coral Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) August 18, 2020
What’s the difference? Whilst recruitment before has often left a lot to be desired, it seems that McNamara has got things spot on so far. Israel Folau has added some much needed speed and threat in the centres, with James Maloney bringing a brilliant controlling aspect, partnering former fans’ favourite Josh Drinkwater in the halves. Add to that Sam Tomkins appears back to his best and the French side look truly devastating going forward.
The steel at the back – not conceding a try for almost 140 minutes – should be raved about too. To keep two sides out for 60 and 80 minutes respectively is proof of how different the Dragons’ attitude seems to be in 2020.
They had the fourth worst points difference last season and currently have the third best. Continue that form and a top four place is definitely within reach.