French side can seal first ever League Leaders’ Shield by beating St Helens on Saturday
Steve McNamara led Catalans to a ground-breaking Challenge Cup triumph three years ago – now he and the Dragons stand on the brink of history again.
Victory over closest rivals St Helens at Magic Weekend on Saturday would secure a first League Leaders’ Shield for the French club. After 16 seasons of consistent inconsistency, McNamara has developed a formula that has seen Catalans lose just twice in the league all season.
It has turned the Dragons from occasional fire-breathers to the best team in the competition to date, though the former England boss insists the main prize lies further down the road. “It’s about winning the Grand Final ultimately – that what’s every team and club is aiming for,” McNamara said.
“But I think we deserve to be where we’re at right now, based on what we’ve done so far this season. Whether we deserve to be the League Leaders or win a Grand Final, that will be determined by what we do next. It’s a good position to be in at this stage of the season.”
McNamara – who has had shining lights in experienced playmakers Sam Tomkins and James Maloney alongside a host of talented young Frenchmen – says the foundations for this season were built last year. “I don’t think you can change habits and perceptions overnight,” he explained.
“You have to work extremely hard in all sorts of different areas, I don’t think it’s any one thing or two things. We’ve got some young players coming in now that are hungry.
“Our travel plans have changed, our recovery plans have changed slightly – there’s a number of things in there. A lot of hard work by a lot of people is just starting to pay off.”
Now the team standing in their way of securing silverware are the ultimate standard bearers in Super League, St Helens, who have lost just 15 of their last 94 league matches.
“They’ve been the benchmark team for four seasons now, first under Justin Holbrook and now under Kristian Woolf,” McNamara added.
“You talk about consistency and where we’re at, they’ve probably done that as a club for over 100 years if we’re being honest, since they were born.
“Over the Super League era, and particularly over the last four seasons, they’ve been formidable, a really good team. They’re the benchmark, what we’re aiming for, and we’re looking forward to the challenge this weekend.”