Catalans Dragons players Greg Bird and Luke Burgess cannot wait for their 2017 campaign to get underway after what they described as a “tough pre-season” is almost over with Catalans first game coming up in just over two weeks time.
Bird and Burgess who are new recruits for the French club in 2017 were speaking via Skype yesterday afternoon from Perpignan after a training session. Luke who joined the club after playing for Manly and then returning to Super League with Salford Red Devils for their middle 8’s campaign in 2016 has had a shortened pre-season, only joining up with the squad in December.
Burgess recently along with Bird and the rest of the squad took part in a three-day training camp with local firefighters where they took part in a number of different activities including moving equipment, an overnight first aid course and safety drills while surviving on rations.
“It was tough at start but I feel we have become more of a group at the end of it and we can use it as a springboard for the season and use it to challenge for honours at the end.” Bird described the camp as “the worst three days of his life” but an experience he will take with him into the season.
“On reflection you seen that everyone was hurting but we all dragged everyone through it, we really started to build some team culture and some unity.”
Having played for the Dragons in 2009 after his infamous leaving of Cronulla the season before, Greg Bird said he has had a simple and easy transition back into France and its culture.
“Nothing’s changed since 2009, I enjoyed playing in Super League back then and the football has only improved since then. I wanted to come back and play the Dragons once my representative footy had finished. The facilities are now world-class, I’m really impressed and we need to turn that into results on the field.”
The former Australian international has signed a five-year deal with the French side which will see him take coaching positions among the junior sides and then in the final two years will be assistant coach of the first team side.
When announced back in October CEO Christophe Jouffret said “He is the type of player our team needs to lead us on the field and with his experience and extremely competitive nature we look forward to having him again playing in the Catalan Dragons jersey. The club has agreed to assist Greg‘s aspirations to one day Coach professionally.”
“Pre-season has been an eye opener a lot different being used to the heat back in Australia than now having a cold one where it’s still pitch black at 8am, Back in 2009 I arrived in March just as the summertime is hitting the South of France, but its the European adventure.” said Bird.
Luke Burgess is no stranger from having to get used to a new culture after leaving Leeds Rhinos for the NRL & South Sydney in 2011. But admitted that adjusting to France was a bigger test.
“The language is difficult to learn but it’s helped with learning it at school to a high standard and my mother is a French teacher. But being immersed among the culture, people and the place has really helped.”
“The coach always speaks in French then translates into English if needed, The club is determined to keep its French culture.”
“I’m excited about playing in Super League again despite the challenge of having to get on the plane to the UK every other week. My personal goals are to get through the season injury free, be consistent and help drive the team culture and bring through the youngsters.”
Catalans get their pre-season underway this weekend as they take on fellow French side Toulouse who will compete in the Kingstone Press Championship this season after promotion from League 1 last season after rejoining the British Leagues in 2016.
Burgess admitted he doesn’t know what to expect from his opponents. “We’ve had no vision sessions so its difficult to see what we will get from them.”
The Dragons get their Super League campaign underway against Warrington Wolves at Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday 11th February with a 6pm ko (5pm GMT) and can be seen live on Sky Sports 2.