Catalans Dragons v St Helens – Richie Myler backs passionate fans to carry ‘Les Dracs’ to Grand Final glory

AS one of the first English players to play for Catalans Dragons, Leeds Rhinos’ Richie Myler knows all about just how far they have come to reach their maiden Super League Grand Final.

FORMER FAVOURITE: Richie Myler, in action for Catalans against Hull FC in February 2017. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Les Dracs will look to make history tomorrow when they seek to become the first French club to lift the title by defeating champions St Helens at Old Trafford.

Clearly, Catalans have come a long way since first gaining their chance in the elite in 2006 and, having won the Challenge Cup three years ago, raising the Super League trophy in Manchester would be their greatest feat yet.

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They have already long since vindicated their place in the competition and, in winning the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time this year, have found the consistency they have so often lacked.

Yet, it was only in 2017 that the Perpignan outfit came close to dropping out of the top division, an event which would have been catastrophic not only for them but French rugby league and for expanding the sport, too.

Fortunately, relieved Dragons survived in the Million Pound Game which decided who was demoted, despite trailing at half-time against Leigh Centurions.

In contrast, stricken Leigh only managed to return to Super League this year following Toronto Wolfpack’s expulsion but then won just two games and so suffered another relegation.

For many years, Catalans relied too heavily on expensive overseas imports, many of whom it was argued would head from Australia and New Zealand to enjoy one last pay-day and enjoy the lifestyle that a coastal city in the very south of France brings.

GREAT JOB: Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara celebrates victory over Hull KR in last Thursday's semi-final. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

However, ex-England coach Steve McNamara, appointed in June 2017 with Dragons fearing the drop, has slowly managed to change the culture and ethos of the entire club, something which is now reaping dividends.

England scrum-half Myler moved to Catalans, who have been backed to the hilt throughout by benevolent owner Bernard Guasch, from Warrington Wolves ahead of the 2016 season.

Unless you include Torquay-born Australian hooker Ian Henderson, he was only the third Englishman to make the switch after Leon Pryce, who left St Helens in 2012, and Elliott Whitehead, who followed from Bradford Bulls a year later.

Now, of course, alongside some excellent French talent, McNamara has a number of high-performing English players at his disposal.

DIFFERENCE MAKER: Sam Tomkins is one of a number of English players to have made a big difference to the quality of Catalans Dragons Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

They include recently-anointed Steve Prescott Man of Steel Sam Tomkins, his brother and dual-code international Joel Tomkins, prolific winger Tom Davies, Grand Final-winning hooker Michael McIllorum and Mike McMeeken, the second-row who joined from Castleford Tigers this term.

Myler, who scored 26 tries in 50 games for Catalans before joining Leeds in 2018, told The Yorkshire Post: “A lot of hard work has gone in over there.

“Bernard (Guasch) has thrown in an awful lot of time, effort, money and resources to get his team here – a first Grand Final.

“I’m really pleased for him. And Steve has done a tremendous job for them; he has really built an ethos and a way of playing. It will be amazing to see them now get to play at Old Trafford.”

Catalans Dragons' players celebrate victory over Hull KR last Thursday. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com

Myler, 31, was involved that day against Leigh, his final game before moving to Headingley, and acknowledges the size of the transformation following that sliding doors moment.

“It definitely is some turnaround,” he added.

“And when we played that Million Pound Game, the reception we got when we got home was unbelievable.

“There were thousands and thousands of people at an airport and that was at a Million Pound Game homecoming.

“To see that passion for the sport down there and love of the game and love of the team, you always said the homecoming would be unbelievable if they got there and actually won a Grand Final.”

That was demonstrated when they prospered at Wembley the following season but Myler hopes his former club can now make more history against a Saints side who knocked Leeds out in last week’s semi-final and are looking for a third successive title.

“I hope Catalans fans can travel over in their numbers,” he said.

“They normally do when it’s a big occasion and I’m sure Bernard will have as many chartered flights on as possible for the supporters.

“I don’t know if I will watch it, though; I never really like to watch it when I’ve missed out in the semis.

“Saints are a quality side and you can’t give them any leg-ups. We did that last week and you can’t be off against them. They had too much for us in the end.

“But Catalans are going great and I will definitely be rooting for them on Saturday.”