11th July 2018, 11:35 | catalans

McNamara delighted with Dragons improvement

McNamara delighted with Dragons improvement

Steve McNamara says the Catalans Dragons’ resurgence is a result of major lifestyle changes implemented by his players.

The French club narrowly escaped relegation from Betfred Super League last year and McNamara blamed their slow start to their 2018 campaign on the World Cup, which featured 15 members of his squad. But the Dragons boss says the problems were more deep-rooted.

“We needed to implement change right from when I took over and that process takes a while,” McNamara told Press Association Sport.

“The World Cup hindered a fair bit of that – it was difficult for us to come together as a team. We had to push through that period but hopefully it’s made us a little bit stronger and it’s starting bear fruit.”

Catalans were bottom of the table at the end of April after winning just two of their 11 matches but have lost only two of their last nine to climb to seventh with three games left of the regular season, starting at Warrington on Thursday.

The return of full-back Tony Gigot from a doping ban a month into the season helped stop the rot while the mid-season signings of half-back Josh Drinkwater and back-row forward Kenny Edwards have enabled the Dragons to kick on.

But McNamara says the biggest factor has been a decision by the whole squad to adopt a more professional approach.

He said: “I did promise the owner when I came to the club that we would be strict and we would be disciplined but that we would enjoy what we were doing at the same time. It’s really important to get that balance right.

“Everyone talks about it being a fantastic place to live – and it is – but it’s about work. The players needed to implement some changes to their lifestyles and they’ve done that.

“You know what it’s like in England with long summer nights, it’s easy to have a glass of wine and eat a bit more food that you should.

“So it’s just the discipline of being a professional sportsman and understanding the requirements to be the very best you can be.

“We’re not there yet but obviously we’re heading in the right direction.”

The Catalans’ revival has been mirrored by top-eight rivals Huddersfield Giants, who have won six of their last seven league matches, four of them since head coach Simon Woolford arrived.

The Giants were next to bottom when Rick Stone was sacked in March, four days after a 48-10 hammering at Wigan Warriors, but a victory over the same opponents at the John Smith’s Stadium on Thursday would go a long way to securing an unlikely top-eight finish.

“It would be massive,” Woolford admits. “When I got here, we were a long way behind but the results have been more positive than I expected.

“We’ve got a group of guys willing to buy in to what we want to achieve and to work hard and when you’ve got a group of guys with that mindset you can achieve results.”