Catalans Dragons finally realise their Super League potential - Dave Craven

A Tweet by L’Equipe to its five million followers celebrated Catalans Dragons’ feat on Thursday as they reached Super League’s Grand Final for the first time.

DESERVED: Players of Catalans Dragons' players celebrate victory over Hull KR on Thursday night. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com

Just to put this into context, Super League’s own Twitter account has 217,000 followers. Sky Sports Rugby League has 115,000.

L’Equipe, the illustrious French daily sport paper, also referred to Catalans’ semi-final win over Hull KR on its front page.

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All of this may not seem so important just now but it is a small snapshot of potentially how seismic Les Dracs’ breakthrough could be not just for rugby league in France but Super League and, eventually, across the world.

Firstly, though, congratulations to Steve McNamara’s side: they fully deserve becoming the first overseas side to reach Old Trafford and – with only four clubs having won Super League since its inception in 1996 – it would be brilliant to see them complete the job in a week’s time.

The last ‘new’ winner was Leeds Rhinos in 2004. And we all know where they went from there. There is so much to like about Catalans, not least the vibrancy and passion of their support, illustrated as they created a unique and hostile atmosphere at a sold-out Stade Gilbert Brutus.

Yes, it is 15 years since their first Super League match and, since then, there have been many doubts about their worthiness.

Those doubts have been smashed to smithereens, though, since former England coach McNamara came to the helm in 2017, the year they had to scrape through the Million Pound Game to avoid relegation. The following year they enjoyed that famous Challenge Cup final win at Wembley and they have continually grown, the ex-Bradford Bulls chief slowly but surely ironing out so many of their infamous inconsistencies. Last year they reached a Super League semi-final and last month they lifted the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time.

PASSIONATE: Catalans Dragons' supporters celebrate their team's semi-final victory over Hull KR Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com

McNamara is the first to praise Bernard Guasch for helping achieve this. Catalans benevolent owner has pumped millions of pounds into his beloved club not only to help keep them competitive but, during the pandemic, fund countless chartered flights to and from the north of England to keep them in action.

Let’s not forget, the sport’s history in France, too; rugby league was actually outlawed there in 1940 by the Vichy government but recovered to stage the first World Cup in 1954.

With Toulouse Olympique just two wins away from becoming the second French club in Super League, and the World Cup finally back in France in 2025, this could be a watershed moment.

Super League had chance to expand the sport with Toronto Wolfpack. It remains a crying shame the sport could not harness them and their immense potential is now left untapped.

PATIENCE: Catalans Dragons' head coach Steve McNamara celebrates his team's victory over Hull KR on Thursday. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com

Thankfully, Catalans are showing expansion can work. With all important time.

I bumped into McNamara in McDonalds after Catalans had vanquished Huddersfield 50-12 on a Thursday night back in July.

It was already approaching midnight and he and his squad were deservedly refuelling before they began the latest long journey home that would not see them back in their own beds until well into the early hours.

Catalans were top that night. I noted how his side did not gain enough credit for what they were doing. McNamara jokingly reminded me I worked in the media so I should be writing that. A stock answer about only covering Yorkshire clubs got me out of jail then but not now. So, this is it. Chapeau, Steve... and Les Dracs!