2021 Super League Grand Final: Catalans Dragons’ Joel Tomkins savors the region’s appetite for rugby league | Rugby League News

The French Catalans aim to become the first foreign team to win the Super League Grand Final when they face St Helens. Watch the decider for the title live on Sky Sports Arena starting at 4.30pm. Saturday (start at 6 pm)

Last Updated: 05/10/21 12:11 pm


The Catalan fans came out with force to the semifinal of the Dragons Super League against Hull KR

Growing up in the North West of England, Joel Tomkins was used to rugby league having a strong presence in the towns and villages in the area.

However, it has come as a surprise to the Wigan native how much the sport is integrated into the communities around his current home in Perpignan, as emphasized by the scenes in the Catalans Dragons Super League semi-final victory.

The crowd of nearly 13,000 at Stade Gilbert Brutus for last Thursday’s 28-10 win over Hull Kingston Rovers created an atmosphere that Dragons forward Tomkins believed rivaled any final he had played in throughout. of his career.

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With the French club now only days away from their first Grand Final appearance, the 34-year-old has no illusions about what it would mean for the Catalans’ hometown and the wider region if they lifted the title at Old Trafford. .

“I was surprised by [semi-final] the participation and the atmosphere, but I think that shows the appetite for rugby league in this region, “said Tomkins, who will return to the Northwest with Leigh Centurions in 2022.

“In every city and in every village, they have a rugby league club and it is very similar to the North West of England. There is a huge appetite for it and hopefully the club can continue to build.”

“[Winning the Super League Grand Final] it would be massive. There is such an appetite for rugby league, and I think that’s what the area needs.

The Catalan Dragons received a hero's welcome in Perpignan before the Super League semi-final with Hull KR.

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The Catalan Dragons received a hero’s welcome in Perpignan before the Super League semi-final with Hull KR.

The Catalan Dragons received a hero’s welcome in Perpignan before the Super League semi-final with Hull KR.

“There is the potential for Toulouse to enter the Super League and the rugby league in France is in a pretty good place at the moment, so it would be great for the region if we could get a trophy.”

A man who has played an important role in transforming the Catalans into true title contenders and, by extension, has helped unlock some of the potential that the 13-player code has in his French heart is the Super League Coach of the Year. , Steve McNamara.

The former Bradford Bulls and England head coach was at the helm when the Dragons scored their first major win by lifting the Challenge Cup in 2018 and has led them less than 80 minutes away from becoming the first foreign team to claim the title of the Super league.

Tomkins, who joined his younger brother and newly crowned Man of Steel Sam in Perpignan early last year, believes that a large part of his rise has been McNamara’s ability to manage the man, along with cohesion in the group. you have seen since. times of success during his career in both league and union.

[Winning the Super League Grand Final] it would be massive. There is such an appetite for rugby league, and I think that’s what the area needs.

Barça forward Joel Tomkins

“The way Steve does it is that he’s pretty laid back in a lot of ways and treats us like adults,” Tomkins said.

“He’s not the type of person who tells you not to do certain things on your day off and trusts people to make the right decisions and the right decisions outside the club.”

“With that union, I think we are fortunate in the group of guys that we have. Sometimes you are lucky to have a group that gets along well and respects each other professionally and personally, and I’ve had it a little bit. A couple of times in me. career.

“A couple of seasons at Wigan and Saracens, I felt like we had that similar feeling and it’s that feeling here.”

Steve McNamara was named coach of the year after leading the Catalans to a grand opening final

Steve McNamara was named coach of the year after leading the Catalans to a grand opening final

Although Saturday night’s showdown with back-to-back champions St Helens is the first time the Dragons as a team will hit the Old Trafford field in search of glory, there are plenty of people who know what it takes to be successful in these games. . .

The Tomkins brothers, Gil Dudson, Tom Davies and Michael McIlorum have been there and have done it with the Wigan Warriors, while James Maloney is a two-time NRL Grand Final champion for his spells with the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks.

Add to that the 2018 Challenge Cup winners Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Josh Drinkwater, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Goudemand and Captain Ben Garcia, and Tomkins hopes the experience can provide a calming influence on a day when emotions they will intensify.

“A lot comes down to which team plays the game you plan on,” Tomkins said. “Both teams will have a game plan going into the game, but sometimes you see that with the teams it goes out the window and the excitement of the whole event takes over.

Although we have not won a Grand Final, we have some guys in the club who have experience … so hopefully we can influence and try to stay calm.

Barça forward Joel Tomkins

“Even though we haven’t won a Grand Final, we have some guys in the club who have experience. Jimmy Maloney has won some things in the NRL and we have some guys who have won some things in Wigan, so hopefully we can influence and try to keep it up. Calm down.

“The first 20 minutes and the first half will be an emotional moment, but you must stick to your game plan and try to impose your will on the other team.”

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