Tom Davies and Mike McMeeken address futures as Catalans prepare for major rebuild

Ross Heppenstall

With 16 players off-contract at the end of the season, and many of them key men, it promises to be another major rebuild at Catalans Dragons heading into 2025.

The list includes Tom Davies, Matthieu Laguerre, Fouad Yaha, Mike McMeeken, Micky McIlorum, Julian Bousquet, Paul Seguier, Alrix Da Costa, Romain Navarrete, Cesar Rouge, Matt Ikuvalu, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Jordan Dezaria, Tom Johnstone, Manu Ma’u and Jordan Abdull.

Bousquet and Taukeiaho have one-year extension options, but there is no denying that the French club face potentially losing some of their best players.

“We’ve got a lot going on at the moment and I think every club will have,” McNamara told Love Rugby League after Sunday’s Challenge Cup win at Halifax Panthers“I think retention is the first priority and then recruitment, but it is what it is.

“Good players are wanted and we’ve got plenty of good players, so we’ve got to get some work done. And we will do.”

England duo Johnstone and Davies are two of the most effective wingers in Super League, both in their try-finishing and work-rate in yardage. McNamara could afford to rest Johnstone for the trip to The Shay, where a 40-4 victory sent the Dragons into the quarter-finals of a competition they famously won in 2018.

But Davies lined up in his usual spot on the right flank and scored a hat-trick with less than 15 minutes played. It was another telling reminder of the former Wigan Warriors star’s quality with his services set to come on the open market.

Off-contact players can formally agree deals elsewhere from May 1 and Davies has been heavily linked with moves to ambitious Hull Kingston Rovers and serial title winners St Helens.

IN FULL: Every Super League player out of contract at the end of 2024

After taking Halifax to the cleaners, the 27-year-old told Love Rugby League: “At the end of the day, I’m contracted to Catalans until the end of the year and that’s all I’m focusing on.

“Whatever goes on next year will be sorted in the future. It’s nice to be wanted but ultimately my focus is on making sure I do well each week for the team. Whatever comes in the future will come.”

Catalans Dragons powerhouse Mike McMeeken addresses his future

Another man who will also command huge interest is England international McMeeken. The imposing former London Broncos man can operate in the front and back row, and also knows where the try-line is too.

He was part of Wayne Bennett’s England World Cup squad in 2017 and featured in the home World Cup under Shaun Wane in 2022. The 29-year-old from Hampshire has been heavily linked with a move to ambitious Wakefield Trinity, but insists he is staying open-minded about the future.

“It’s difficult isn’t it, because no negotiations can start until after May 1,” the ex-Castleford Tigers forward told Love Rugby League.

“We’ll just see what happens and it will be a tough decision either way. In terms of family, we’d be pretty torn because it’s a great lifestyle in the south of France.

“The family are enjoying life there but we’ve got family back home in England too, so when the time comes to make a decision it will be a tough decision for sure.”

When does McMeeken expect that decision to finalised? “In the next few weeks,” he replied. “Like I say, nothing can be started or negotiated until May 1. We’ll just see what happens from there.”

Many English players join Catalans because of the sunny climes and laid-back lifestyle, not to mention being part of a side who under McNamara have developed into one of the most potent forces in Super League.

RELATED: The Super League players already rumoured to have all-but agreed deals elsewhere in 2025

The Dragons won the Challenge Cup at Wembley six years ago and have also reached two of the last three Super League Grand Finals. McMeeken, who was signed by McNamara ahead of the 2021 campaign, was a huge presence against Halifax with his formidable ball-carrying.

He said: “Where am I at form-wise? I’m just really enjoying my rugby and in whatever position I’m asked to play. I’m mixing it up by playing back row one week and then in the middle the week after.

“I’m playing with a good group of lads and as a team we’re going in the right direction. Individually and collectively, we’ve got a bit of work to go still, but we’re in a good place because we’re not losing games and we feel like we can play better as well.”

The Wolves host the Dragons this Easter

Catalans travel to Warrington Wolves for a Super League clash on Easter Saturday in what promises to be a major battle.

Both sides have four wins from their opening five games and McMeeken played with Wolves head coach Burgess for England at the 2017 World Cup.

“Burgess is a massive leader and was obviously a huge role model for players during his playing career,” added McMeeken. “You saw how good a player he was at such a young age in Super League and then in the NRL.

“The way he competed and succeeded over there is something that younger players looked up to. He’s got himself off to a solid start with Warrington and we know it will be a tough game on Saturday.”

Catalans beat the Wire 16-10 in Burgess’ first game in charge during last month’s Super League opener. McMeeken recalled: “We know what to expect and it was a very close game earlier this season, so it’s certainly going to be a tough day at the office.”

Davies is certainly enjoying his rugby too, as evidence by his treble against Liam Finn’s Panthers on Sunday.

His first two tries were simple efforts but his third was a fine acrobatic effort which saw him dive to ground the ball one-handed in the right corner.

READ NEXT: Analysing possible off-contract options to replace Tommy Makinson at St Helens

“I’m very happy at Catalans and things are going well for me this year,” continued the Wiganer. “That’s all credit to the lads inside me because I’m nothing if I don’t get the ball in space.

“Theo Fages has come into the side this year and really brought an attacking edge to our side. Ika (Matt Ikuvalu) has been playing well and setting them up – not only has got that silky ball in attack but he’s strong in defence too.

“Last year when he arrived I thought he was a good addition, but this season he’s really settled in and is going from strength to strength.”

As McNamara hinted, Catalans are currently working hard behind the scenes to find replacements for the raft of players who look set to leave. But their finances are set to squeezed when they will have pay for all Super League sides to visit the Stade Gilbert Brutus from 2025.

McNamara’s team had the added complication on Sunday of flying in and out of England from Montpellier due to Perpignan Airport being shut. The former England boss explained: “We had to pay for a private flight from Montpellier to fly in a couple of hours before the game.

“It cost us a lot of money to get here and to get back so we needed to win. It’s probably going to cost us a fair bit more in the next round as well because, whether we’re at home or away, we’ll be paying the travel costs regardless.”

MORE TRANSFERS: One off-contract player every Super League club should prioritise re-signing