To say that Australian halfback Josh Drinkwater has settled into life seamlessly in the south of France is an understatement.
The mercurial playmaker has arguably become one of Super League’s most influential players in recent seasons, helping to guide the Catalans Dragons to a Grand Final in 2021 after winning the Challenge Cup in 2018 for the first time in the club’s history.
Spells at London Broncos, Hull KR and the Leigh Centurions in the UK have been less fruitful, but Drinkwater’s two spells in Perpignan have been incredible to say the least – and he is a cult hero at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, too.
Despite the exit of James Maloney at the end of the 2021 Super League season, Drinkwater has been able to play alongside former State of Origin star Mitchell Pearce in 2022.
And, the 30-year-old has been talking up the impact of former Newcastle Knights man Pearce on the club and Drinkwater himself.
“He’s been really good, we haven’t really played too many games together but hopefully we will get together and build those combinations,” Drinkwater said.
“He’s a competitor and he’s done everything in the NRL – he wants to win and going into these big games he will be key for us.”
Drinkwater revealed just how big rugby league is in the south of France and in Perpignan in particular.
“I think rugby league is growing massive here with the little bits of success, although we got beat in the Grand Final.
“They are rugby league mad here and the fans are so passionate – the travelling teams enjoy coming here to watch their team. It’s a holiday for them and hopefully Toulouse are able to stay in the top flight.
“I don’t think it’s fair seeing teams get promoted and then go back down the year after.
The Australian halfback has revealed just how much he has loved playing for Catalans and, in the process, is determined to retire with the Dragons if they want to keep hold of him.
“A few years ago it had a reputation for Australians as a holiday first and then footy second, but we want to win.
“It’s footy first for us and then it’s a great place to be after that, it’s on the border with Spain. It’s about appreciating all that but I want to win the competition.
“I’m 30 now and I’ve been here a fair few years here but I would love to finish (my career) here. I’ve got another year on my contract and if they want to extend it then they can.”
The Dragons are currently chasing top spot once more in 2022 after reaching the high echelons of first in 2021, winning the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in their history.