20th July 2018, 09:39 | super_league

Looking back can help Catalans move forward, says McNamara

Looking back can help Catalans move forward, says McNamara

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara says the memory of last year’s brush with relegation will help drive his players in their bid to avoid another nerve-jangling spell in the Super 8s Qualifiers.

The former England boss arrived in Perpignan last year 19 rounds into the regular season with the Dragons already deep in trouble in the bottom four of Betfred Super League and was unable to prevent them appearing in the dreaded Million Pound Game.

The Catalans were 40 minutes away from relegation to the Betfred Championship as they trailed Leigh Centurions 6-4 at half-time in the decider at the Sports Village and only a strong second-half performance enabled them to preserve their top-flight status.

The French club have spent most of the 2018 season in familiar territory in the the bottom four but a run of six wins from seven matches lifted them into the top eight and last week’s draw at Warrington Wolves edged them closer to safety.

A win over Salford Red Devils, who are already confirmed in the bottom four, at Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday will ensure their survival with a game to spare and McNamara is desperate to get the job done.

“No one wants to go through that,” McNamara said. “Really seasoned professionals like Greg Bird will tell you that he’s never experienced pressure like that and he’s played at the highest level with New South Wales and Australia.

“Lewis Tierney has been involved in Challenge Cup finals and Grand Finals with Wigan and he literally couldn’t sleep for a week.

“It’s a serious situation for anyone involved in that and it’s not just the Million Pound Game, all the other games (in the Qualifiers) are very difficult, they are very cagey affairs.

“I know it brings excitement for people from the outside but internally it’s a complete nightmare.

“We need to avoid it at all costs, that’s why all of us at the minute are fighting to get into the top eight.

“We’ve got momentum now and you’d like to sit back and enjoy the run a little bit more but you can’t because the stakes are so high.”

It is that sole focus on their perilous league position that has pushed the French club’s Wembley bid firmly to the back of their minds.

The Catalans are 80 minutes away from a second Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final appearance but their semi-final against St Helens at Bolton on Sunday, August 5, will only come into their thoughts once they get next week’s league game at Wigan Warriors out of the way.

“It’s a really nice thing to have on the horizon but it would be even nicer if we could go into that semi-final, if not carefree, with a lot less on our minds,” McNamara said.

“There are two games to go before we get to that so we have no interest in it whatsoever.”

The Dragons have winger Jodie Broughton back from injury while Salford are boosted by the return of full-back Niall Evalds, who has missed the last two months with a broken leg.