Steve McNamara is glad that his Catalans Dragons side are taking on Wigan Warriors in tonight’s Grand Final, because a meeting of the top two at Old Trafford is ‘the game that the competition deserves’.
This is the second time that the Dragons have reached the showpiece, previously doing so in 2021 when they topped the table in the regular season and St Helens came 2nd.
2023 has seen the roles reversed, with the Warriors pipping McNamara’s men to the League Leaders’ Shield on points difference, winning all nine of their final regular season games in Super League to do so.
Accordingly, Matt Peet’s Wigan – at least by virtue of those placings – are the toughest possible test Catalans could have asked for in a Grand Final. For the boss though, it’s the one he wanted.
Catalans Dragons boss Steve McNamara: ‘It’s the game that the competition deserves’
Fresh off the plane, former England boss McNamara spoke to Love Rugby League at Thursday afternoon’s Grand Final media event.
On the test which awaits his side against a team who only seven weeks ago blew them away, the Hull native said: “I think it’s exactly the same (as 2021). That year, us against Saints, it was one versus two.
“It’s one versus two again this year, we’re not playing a team who have made a late run and chased it like Leeds did last year.
“It’s the two best teams in the competition, and I know it’s good and exciting sometimes when something else changes, but these seasons are gruelling.
“They are tough, tough seasons, so for me on merit, both teams get to go out there on Saturday night. It’s the game that the competition deserves.
“We’ve had some really good games against them this year already. One where we came out on top clearly, one where they came out on top clearly, and we go again. Let’s go!”
Dragons chief vows lessons were learnt from 2021 Grand Final heartbreak
Despite topping the table in 2021, and bettering Saints’ win percentage by a margin of more than 6%, Catalans came out on the losing side of their Grand Final debut.
The Red Vee claimed a 12-10 win, sealing the third of their four Super League titles in a row. For the first time in five years, it won’t be the same club getting their hands on silverware in the showpiece, and in their bid to ensure it’s they who lift it for the first time, McNamara says lessons have been learnt.
The Dragons head coach added: “I think as most teams would do, we’ve evolved and changed. As seasons go on and with the experiences that you get, the way we train and the days that we train have changed.
“Where we stay has changed, and when we arrive has changed. What we’ll do tomorrow (Friday) has slightly changed, so we learnt some really good things from it.
“We came and did a very good job two years ago, but the very good job wasn’t enough to win the trophy. We need to be better, and I think as a team we have evolved from then.
“We’ve changed personnel, we’ve changed our style slightly, and that’s part and parcel of what every coach tries to do with their team.”