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Chance for a new name on the Super League trophy, says McNamara

Catalans coach Steve McNamara believes 2020 could be the year for a different team to win Super League.

As the competition celebrates its 25th birthday, only four teams (Bradford, Leeds, St Helens and Wigan) have managed to lift the trophy.

The introduction of a fixed salary cap in 2002 has failed, in many respects, to create a level playing field with the league still dominated by a small number of clubs.

However, with the sport on lockdown through the current health crisis, and while the financially stability of rugby league remains the priority, McNamara still has one eye on the competition and believes it could be on the verge of a much-needed shake up.

“Over the history of Super League, for only four teams to have won it, that needs to change and I think there’s a chance that could be about to happen,” said the Dragons boss.

“Who knows what’s going to happen now, this year, and Salford proved that the gap is no longer to the point where a team from the middle of the table can’t do it.

“For us, we still have a young history and to bring a league title here, to go with the Challenge Cup, would be absolutely massive for us.

Catalans won the 2018 Challenge Cup beating Warrington 20-14 at Wembley. Credit: News Images

“But in terms of a different winner, a whole host of teams are hell-bent on trying to achieve that and it’s a case of putting yourself in a good position.”

With huge uncertainty on what lies ahead, it’s a distinct possibility the fixture schedule will be reduced to allow for the season to be completed in the calendar year.

Although McNamara recognises this will likely give more teams a shot at the title, he is also well aware it may result in a scrap at the other end of the table too.

“Saints obviously pushed themselves right out in 2019 and it left everyone closer to the bottom of the league than the top which is never a good look,” he said.

“We’ve been able to drag St Helens back and take some points off them, but the fight for the playoffs was always going to be intense.

Catalans are level on points with champions St Helens having played two less games. Credit: News Images

“Take your eye off that though and relegation isn’t too far away so every team is close now and this will make them even closer I think.”

The 48-year-old former England coach has been using his free time inside wisely, because while his players carry out their own training regimes at home, he has been developing his ever-improving French-speaking skills – to the point where he was able to address the club’s supporters in the language on Twitter last week.

Before learning the language, McNamara was still a hugely popular figure in Perpignan after guiding Catalans to the Challenge Cup in 2018, the first major trophy in their history – coming just 10 months after surviving relegation from Super League by the skin of their teeth.

After a very inconsistent 2019, the Dragons had won three of their first four games prior to the season hiatus, with new signing James Maloney pulling all the strings.

Star half-back James Maloney has added a new dimension to the Dragons. Credit: News Images

Despite this, the ex-Bradford coach recognises nothing has been achieved and is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“We have made some improvements so far from last season,” said McNamara. “We had some fantastic wins in 2019 but we had some really bad losses as well so we had to bridge that gap.

“It was going to be important for us to be competitive in every game and to show up for each other, we’ve spoken in-depth about this a number of times.

“Nobody so far has really spoken about Catalans, which suits us, so we’ll concentrate on ourselves.”

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