McNamara: Winning the League-Cup Double Is Doable

Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara believes “anything is possible” as his side prepare for their Challenge Cup quarter-final against Salford Red Devils on Friday evening.

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The French side remain in the hunt for two trophies this season.

While completing a League and Cup double appears even harder to achieve this year given the hectic scheduling clubs face, former England coach McNamara believes anything is possible.

With mid-week Super League fixtures being played in the build-up to both the semi-final and final of this year’s Challenge Cup, McNamara admits clubs may have to prioritise one competition over another, something he would find extremely hard to do.

McNamara said: “It’s going to be extremely hard to win both trophies, but in reality there’s two trophies to win each year.”

“To try and toss one aside and think about competing for one and not the other, it’s a really difficult thing to do.”

“It’s possible to win both trophies. Anything is possible, when teams get past this stage and you look at the schedule and see Super League rounds in the week leading into the semi-final and final, clubs are going to have to make decisions at that point.”

“The way the competition is and the way the teams are with what’s happening, people coming back after layoffs and teams losing players to COVID, you just don’t know what performance to expect.”

“We just attack each game as it comes and see where it takes us.”

Despite being drawn as the home side, Catalans have been forced to play Friday’s fixture in England, something that disappointed McNamara given the financial implications it is likely to have for the French side.

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Catalans went all the way in the Challenge Cup in 2018, and McNamara is expecting a tough test on Friday evening against Salford at the Totally Wicked Stadium, but is excited at being involved in another Cup run.

“We’re into a routine. We want to play at home and we’re very disappointed that this game isn’t at home given the financial impact this has on the club, but the players know the routine and they’re ready for it.”

“We got drawn at home in the last round and had to play away, now we’ve got a home draw that we can play in France, but we’ve been told it must be played in England.”

“In reality, the way everything is happening, we’re just concentrating on the next game and it is exciting to be part of a Challenge Cup run, there’s eight of us left competing for the last four spots.”

The 48-year-old also commented on Super League’s decision to decide this season’s League table based on points percentage and feels it is the fairest solution available to Super League, but hopes it won’t come into play if teams manage to fulfil all of their remaining fixtures.

“I feel the percentage rule is quite clearly the fairest solution. We don’t know how long we’ll continue playing for. Hopefully we’ll play all 20 games and it won’t even really come into play. If there are teams who have played more games or if the season has to stop and we need to just go to the play-offs and the final, it can be done given this system.”

Should Catalans’ progress to the semi-finals on Friday evening it will add another fixture to their already congested schedule and McNamara suggested he may give opportunities to some of the club’s younger players as the season wears on.

He also stressed the importance of the club developing its younger players with experienced duo Mickael Simon and Antoni Maria retiring at the end of the season.

“They’ve just started training to get ready for the Elite competition. If at any point we feel the need to add to our squad, we can add someone from within that group of players.”

“I’m excited by the young French players at the club. They’ve worked really hard since I’ve been at the club such as Arthur Mourgue, Lambert Belmas, Paul Seguier, Lucas Albert and Alrix Da Costa. We’ve got lots of players underneath that who are all ready to play and contribute when needed as well.”

“As a club, it’s really important to develop these players, they’ll get chances this season and have an even bigger influence next season with Mickael Simon and Antoni Maria retiring.”

McNamara’s son Ben is currently on the books of Super League rivals Hull FC and hopes he can make his Super League debut in the near future, having been named in the Airlie Birds 21-man on three occasions.

“He’s a good kid, he’s working extremely hard, I know the staff at Hull FC are really happy with his attitude.”

“He’s been in the 21-man squad three times and he’s just being patient and doing what a young kid needs to do, keep working hard and when an opportunity arises try and take it with both hands.”

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