Super League XXIII: Catalans talking points

Catalans left it until the Million Pound Game to secure themselves another season in Super League, will they fare any better in 2018?

Captain: Remi Casty

Coach: Steve McNamara

2017 Position: Regular season – 10th. Qualifiers – 5th (Million Pound Game winners)

Key player – Greg Bird

All eyes on the Australia international again. He missed chunks of last season through suspension and injury, but there’s no doubting his importance in the Catalans side. He brings experience in a team that struggled to find direction in 2017 and, if he can stay fit, then the Dragons have one of Super League’s most talented players in their ranks. Bird can do everything; metre-making and tackling, as well as playmaking from the 13 position. If Steve McNamara is to push his side back up the table, then he will need Bird to fly high in 2018.

Fresh face – David Mead

Michael McIlorum’s move from Wigan certainly raised a few eyebrows, especially with the Dragons already boasting Paul Aiton in their hooking ranks, but the addition of Papua New Guinea full-back David Mead is an excellent one. An experienced face from the NRL, Mead made nearly 150 appearances for the Gold Coast Titans before playing 13 times for Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos last season. He will fill the full-back slot left vacant by Tony Gigot’s suspension and will bring a touch of class to a Dragons side who certainly needed it last year.

One to watch – Michael McIlorum

An interesting move this. McIlorum has swapped the comforts of Wigan for the South of France, and it appeared totally out of the blue. As mentioned before, the Dragons have an international hooker already in their ranks in Paul Aiton. McIlorum has spent his entire career in Cherry-and-White, winning Super League titles and Challenge Cups during his time with the club. And that experience will prove vital in improving Catalans for the new season. McIlorum is known as one of Super League’s prime competitors, a hooker who won’t take a backwards step and prides himself on his defence. He showed great mental strength to recover from a broken ankle that kept him out of the 2016 campaign. Will McIlorum star in his new surroundings?

Reasons for optimism

2017 has finished. The annus horribilis that saw the Dragons finally survive in the Million Pound Game. Steve McNamara has had a full off-season to implement his own ideas, having replaced Laurent Frayssinous mid-season. Recruitment looks strong if not quite as centred on star names as previous years and the likes of Luke Walsh have had a full season in France to settle. Surely it can’t be as bad?

Reasons for concern

There’s a couple of big departures that might hit the Dragons hard. Club legend Thomas Bosc has retired, bringing the curtain down on a sensational one-club career. And they’ve lost fellow half back Richie Myler, who’s made the switch to Leeds. That’s a big part of the club’s core moving on, and the Dragons were so short on quality last year too. Will they be able to replace those two this season?