The news last week that Catalan Dragons prop Remi Casty is set to head for the NRL should cheer all fans of the French game.
As Sheffield Eagles prop Eddie Battye told Love Rugby League recently, the French domestic game is in improving health. There are some good players, and with an improved coaching structure more stars can hopefully be produced in the coming years.
Certainly, the youth system at Catalan seems to be turning out increasing numbers of good players, witness the progress made this season by Morgan Escare.
Theo Fages at Salford is another young Frenchman who came originally through the system at the Dragons, before opting to test his arm in the North of England.
But the arrival of a big name French international in the NRL is a real step forward for ‘the Forbidden Game’ in France. The experience Casty will gain will be invaluable for the international side, whether he is a hit or not.
The player’s physicality and relish for the more combative aspects of the game is also in his favour. If NRL players try and intimidate this son of Narbonne then they may receive an unpleasant surprise in return.
The 28-year-old is also just reaching his peak as a prop, with front row forwards often producing their best displays in their late 20s and early 30s.
Good in attack and defence, his 18 tries in 155 games for the Dragons show that he can find the whitewash when needed. Anyone who has been on the end of one his hits usually remembers it too.
There is a good fit in terms of the club he is joining too. Trent Robinson, who spent three years as Catalan coach until last season, can speak French and was an instrumental part of Casty’s maturing as a player.
The opportunity to link up with Robinson again must surely have played a massive part in Casty’s decision to move. But there are other, more esoteric symmetries too.
The Rooster is France’s national sporting emblem, with ‘le coq’ adorning the shirt of most teams who wear the national blue. The Sydney club’s own colours are those of France, with the blue, white and red reflecting the colours of the Tricolour.
Hopefully Casty will be the first, rather than the last, Frenchman to play in the NRL too, as more players of quality are produced in l’Hexagone.
One day soon, you never know, we may see a French national team repeat the feats of the side led by the legendary Puig Aubert. He led his brave band of Treizistes Down Under during the 1950s and played the Aussies off the park.
Any true fan of rugby league outside of Australia would surely love to see that happen again.