On the back of their historic Challenge Cup win, Catalans have recruited three Englishmen – but coach Steve McNamara says their French identity is very important.
Entering their 14th year in Super League in 2019, the Dragons have at times been criticised for their reliance on antipodeans, though a number of Frenchmen now play elsewhere in the top flight.
Under Trent Robinson, they adopted a French-first communication policy and while that perhaps isn’t all that it takes, ensuring the club represents its values and region is important for its development.
McNamara said: “We’re a French team with a French identity. We’ve added some English players and some English staff to an already strong French contingent.
“It’s very important for me that we never lose that identity, and it’s important for us all to embrace that.
“Some of us can learn it quicker than others, but for us without doubt we will be attempting to do that, and trying to do that is very important.
“People like Thomas Bosc are invaluable for our coaching group in terms of making sure we stay on track of that.”
After a slow start to his reign, there had suggestions McNamara’s position might be at risk, but he oversaw a remarkable turnaround that saw them reach Wembley and pull off a win over Warrington which will no doubt have had chairman Bernard Guasch quietly smiling at persisting with the ex-England coach when there was calls otherwise.
As for McNamara, his patience and assurance in his plan and process reaped rewards probably far in advance of what he expected and reflected his development as a coach since his days in charge of the England national team.
He added: “The big thing was the players learnt that winning doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not chance. You have to invest in what you do to get performances.
“If you get performances, you give yourself a better chance of winning and that was the biggest thing. You have to have a plan for it to happen.”
Along with Sam Tomkins, Matty Smith is a stand-out signing for the Dragons and integrating those in to his team but also developing Super League standard French players will continue to be a priority.
Don’t forget too that the Dragons do have a successful reserve set up playing in the competitive French league – and that may well have them at an advantage until their English rivals either get their heads together and do something about below the first team or the RFL make it mandatory.
With the top five reaching the Super League play-offs this season, the Dragons will no doubt have that in as one of their main targets for the new campaign.