Written by John Davidson
Photo by Catalans Media
Catalans Dragons are heading into the unknown in 2021 with many experienced players departing the club and the uncertainty around Covid-19 remaining.
That’s the view of Catalans halfback Josh Drinkwater, who has returned to France after spending the off-season back in Australia.
The Dragons have unable to begin training as a team yet because the French outfit is receiving financial assistance from the government that prevents them from joining up together. The Perpignan outfit has also undergone major squad change with the exits of Remi Casty, David Mead, Lewis Tierney, Antoni Maria, Sam Moa, Lucas Albert and Mika Simon.
It is expected Catalans may face another arduous flight schedule this season because of travel restrictions caused by the Coronavirus. Doubt remains over the future of Israel Folau, while Arthur Roman has done his ACL and only three new players have been signed in Mike McMeeken, Gil Dudson and Dean Whare.
However, Drinkwater believes this turnover will offer plenty of opportunities to local French talent.
“The club decided it wanted to lower the age of the squad and we’ve lost a lot of quality players, no doubt,” the 28-year-old playmaker told Everything Rugby League.
“But it’s an opportunity for the young French boys who have been around the squad for a few years now to show that they are ready.
“Our reserve team have been up the top of the French league for a while now so this is their next step. We probably won’t be as big this season, but with the rule changes, a lot of clubs will go smaller.
“But there’s no doubt we’ve lost a lot of good, experienced players. The season is a little bit of the unknown with the pandemic going on and us not training as a team yet, hopefully it gets back to normal quickly because the travel we were doing did take a toll on us towards the back end of the season.
“It’s obviously tough but we will get on with it and hopefully we can host some games in France at Brutus.”
The Dragons players have been forced to train alone for now, with group training to resume on March 1. Catalans will open their 2021 season against Hull KR at Headingley on March 27.
“It’s not ideal for us at all to not train as a group, but we fully understand the reasoning by it,” Drinkwater admitted.
“It probably means we are going to be behind everyone else in the early rounds, but our spine won’t changing much, only Micky with his suspension.
“So we will have to nail our few weeks together prior to round one.
“It probably makes it harder with the new rules, teams will have been preparing and coming up with plans how to best play, but it’s something we just have to deal with.
“In our key positions we have a lot of experience and Steve has been around a long time, so I’m sure we will figure it out quickly.
“We just may not be as sharp as we would have been if we had a full pre-season.”