Catalans were a whisker away from Grand Final glory in 2021. A superb season from the French outfit saw them dominate the league with ease at times coming up with two famous wins over eventual Champions St Helens, thumping Wigan in France and tries galore as they romped to a first ever League Leaders’ Shield. With a superb squad at Steve McNamara’s disposal last season, they’d have been deserving Champions and means they’re building from a position of strength with only one or two major departures set to rock the Dragons going into the new season. With quality rumoured arrivals imbound, Catalans could be set for an even better season in 2022.
Fullback: Sam Tomkins
The reigning Man of Steel could be seen as something of an immovable object at the back for Catalans. Super League’s current super man has a stranglehold over the fullback spot despite the obvious quality of the young Arthur Mourgue who can be seen as a ready-made replacement for the ex-Wigan man as he edges closer to the end of his career. However, after the quality he showed in 2021, we should expect Tomkins to produce another brilliant season. If anything, the harder question to ask about Tomkins is whether he’ll keep the fullback spot for England. At this moment in time, he seems like a sure bet.
Wingers: Tom Davies and Fouad Yaha
There might be better wingers in the league at the moment, but no club has a better pair of wingers than the Dragons at this moment in time. In Fouad Yaha they have a tank on the flank who at times seems to run on rocket fuel. To out score the brilliant Tom Davies on Catalans’ right took some doing last year and for that he deserves credit. Meanwhile, there’s not enough time for me to do Tom Davies justice here. Quite rightly settled on England’s right edge, no player has outperformed him on the wing in Super League over the last two seasons and no player has scored as many tries as the former Wigan winger when you look at the last two seasons combined. He has everything and could nail down a third consecutive Dream Team place in 2022.
Centres: Dean Whare and Samisoni Langi
It was always going to take a special effort to replace Israel Folau at centre for Catalans, but the less flashy yet sure and steady Dean Whare was the perfect man to come in and fill the vacated number four shirt. I say less flashy because he’s not the headline grabber Folau has been throughout his career both on and off the pitch, but he’s steady in defence and a real winger’s centre creating chances for Davies consistently. The same could be said of Samisoni Langi who is another underrated outside back Super League has to offer. With power, pace and skill he’s hard to handle when given time and space. He and Yaha formed quite the frightening partnership last year. Both he and Whare are nailed on starters for next season but the quality of Matthieu Laguerre could see the youngster gradually wrestle away a place in the starting 13 from one of the two. Meanwhile the Dragons are still rumoured to be chasing another outside back from abroad to give themselves further depth. Could the eventual signing by another option at centre?
Halfback: Josh Drinkwater and Mitchell Pearce (TBC)
You might expect me to focus on how Steve McNamara could possibly replace James Maloney at stand-off, and I will, but first I want to give credit to Josh Drinkwater who’ll be just as key as anyone to easing the blow of Maloney’s departure. No player created more tries than the ex-Hull KR scrum-half last term as his short kicking game devastated teams. As for who will inherit the number six shirt, it seems that honour will go to Maloney’s former teammate Mitchell Pearce. The pair guided Sydney to NRL glory back in 2013 and won the State of Origin for New South Wales as recently as 2019. He’ll know what to do to fill the void left by his old partner in crime and will offer a similar blend of control and creativity. A top NRL halfback, he’d be a perfect replacement should his rumoured move be confirmed in the next few weeks. Failing that, Arthur Mourgue has proven he can flourish in the role owing to his running game and speed.
Props: Gil Dudson and Julian Bousquet
The number 10 spot in Catalans’ side last year appeared to be in flux. At times Joel Tomkins would occupy the role, others it would be Mickael Goudemand and sometimes it would be Jordan Dezaria. With Tomkins on his way to Leigh, the door is open that bit wider but with the rumoured arrival of an NRL forward potentially in the shape of Dylan Napa, the door could be slammed shut. Failing that it’ll likely be the ever-reliable Julian Bousquet will be trusted there alongside Gil Dudson who settled in perfectly last year adding extra bite and leadership to the Dragons’ front row.
Hooker: Michael McIlorum
After a tough start to the season for Michael McIlorum in 2021, he finished the year strongly looking right at home in a return to the Grand Final. He’ll start the season as the first-choice number nine but Alrix Da Costa is another fine hooker who’ll provide a significant threat to McIlorum’s starting berth. But for now, McIlorum’s experience and the way he builds a platform for Catalans’ other spine players will see him hold on to the number nine jersey.
Second-Rowers: Matt Whitley and Mike McMeeken
Catalans might just have the best back-row in the league which makes this selection rather easy. Last year Steve McNamara helped Mike McMeeken rediscover his best form. A try scorer in the Grand Final and a constant threat on the right edge owing to his physicality, he’s the ideal backrower. Meanwhile, Matt Whitley might just be one of the most well-rounded forwards in the league with a little bit of everything to compliment a strong physique. Injuries stifled him in 2021 but don’t be surprised to see him force his way into next year’s Dream Team.
Loose-Forward: Benjamin Garcia
Few loose-forwards outperformed Garcia last season. With the pressure of the captain’s armband, Garcia has grown into a magnificent forward and an even better skipper providing physicality, work rate and skill down the centre of the pitch. As the captain, he can also be considered one of the first names on the team sheet and will be going into 2022.
Substitutes: Arthur Mourgue, Mickael Goudemand, Sam Kasiano, Jordan Dezaria
In Arthur Mourgue and Sam Kasiano, Steve McNamara has two of the best impact subs in the league. Mourgue is the closest thing to Rob Burrow in Super League, throw him on against a tired defence and he can rip them to shreds. Meanwhile, Kasiano will bounce through tackles when he comes on and provides an extra attacking threat thanks to his offload game. If the Dragons can draft in another overseas forward, they could have even more bite on the bench but to be fair to Catalans’ current options, there’s some brilliant quality already available. Mickael Goudemand has a break out year in 2021 and is one of the most underrated forwards in the league whilst Jordan Dezaria is equally good and offers great impact off the bench. They’ll be hard to budge.