Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara has taken his team back to basics, insisting that last season’s success does not guarantee another good year in 2022.
The French club made history by winning the League Leaders’ Shield in 2021. They went on to reach a maiden Grand Final, in which they lost 12-10 to St Helens at Old Trafford.
That has ensured the Dragons will be among the fancied teams for the new season. But McNamara is leaving nothing to chance and says they have not yet earned the right to be ranked alongside the established clubs.
Steve McNamara hoping to go one better in 2022
“You cannot expect to start the new season how you finished the last one. It just doesn’t happen that way,” the former England coach said.
“We obviously got close last year but we weren’t quite good enough to get it done.
“For me, you’ve got to re-visit it all. You can’t expect to get back there based on what you did last year. You can’t presume that foundation is there again.
“So we made the decision to go back to basics and build some strong foundations to try and give ourselves the best opportunity to perform consistently this season.
“That’s meant learning how to kick, learning how to tackle, learning how to catch and pass, re-visiting the basic fundamentals of the game with some basic drills and building our programme from there.
“Hopefully, if we get into the same position, we can do a little bit better than we did last year. But we are under no illusions how difficult it’s going to be.
“We haven’t earned the right yet by any stretch to be considered a Leeds or Wigan or a Saints who have dominated the competition for years.
“We know we’ve got to work extra hard again to give ourselves a chance again this season.”
Just one friendly for French sides in 2022
McNamara’s men open their campaign with a Grand Final re-match at St Helens on February 10 and before then have a friendly against newly-promoted Toulouse.
That clash in Perpignan on Saturday week will be the only warm-up game for both French teams as they continue to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s all we’re playing,” Steve McNamara said. “It’s nearly impossible to arrange anything else.
“By the time we get to round one, hopefully most teams will be at full-strength.”
The Dragons’ trio of NRL signings, Mitchell Pearce, Dylan Napa and Tyrone May, are all settled in the country. Dean Whare, Julian Bousquet and Matt Whiteley are making good progress in their recovery from injuries sustained in the Grand Final.
“They will all be at the starting line for round one. Whether they make the trial game or not we’re not so sure yet,” McNamara said.
“Everybody who is fit and available will get some game time against Toulouse.”
McNamara says both French clubs are encouraged by the easing of travel restrictions between the two countries and is hopeful the French Government will lift the 5,000 crowd limit in time for his side’s opening home game against Wakefield on February 19.