I spoke to Steve Deakin, the then coach of UTC, in 2005 as he was preparing to lead his Catalans Dragons side into the 2006 engage Super League season.
How are preparations going for the 2006 Super League season?
It’s going well. We’ve done the overseas recruitment and we’ve signed the French players who we wanted to keep. We’ve also signed about seven or eight players from French teams who we believe have the potential to play Super League in the next 12 months and we’ve signed some of our old players back to the club who, because we didn’t run a reserve team last season, had moved on. That’s helped strengthen the club’s structure. They’re certainly players capable of coming in and playing a few games of Super League if need be from the reserve side that will be running in the 2006 French Championship. We’ll have a very able and competitive squad and that reserve side should make a serious challenge in the Championship here and, of course, provide us with depth and a decent side for Super League. We think that, on the pitch, we are pretty much on target.
Which French players have you signed?
We’ve signed Rémy Casty, who’s played for France, from Lézignan. We’ve also re-signed Teixedo from Carcassone. Patrice Gomez, Mathias Garabé and Marc Humbert have all returned from SM Pia and we’ve re-signed Sébastien Terrado who played at Pia and then a year at Lézignan. Then, of course, we’ve signed Jérôme Guissett from Wigan. So we think things are coming together nicely.
What size squad will you have?
We will be announcing a squad of 24 players and we’ll also have a reserve grade side too so we’ll work out which of those players can come through into the first team and experience some longevity in the Super League. We’ll have 26 full time players. We also have an under 19s team.
How happy are you with your overseas recruits?
Over the moon. We’ve finished recruiting overseas players as we are only allowed eight. The new recruits have just arrived apart from Stacey Jones who arrives the day after the second New Zealand v Australia game in the Tri-Nations and Ian Hindmarsh, whose wife is pregnant, who will be here on the 7th of November. Pre season starts on the 24th of October. So, we’re allowed eight non-French players and we’ve accepted that on the basis that we’ve got at least three years in the Super League and we’d be stupid not to use that three year guarantee to give experience to the French players.
What do you think will be a successful season for you?
Well you’re talking intangibles here. If we lose overseas players to injury for a long time then it means we’ll lose a lot of experience because only Guissett has played Super League and Julien Rinaldi who played a few games for Wakefield a couple of years ago. It’s something we’ll monitor on a week to week or even a month to month basis and if we can get the players used to playing at that level on a consistent basis and be competitive then we can look to identify a position where we want to be in the second year. The first year is about us getting used to the speed of the game on a consistent basis and the travelling.
What are your travel plans so far?
Well, we’ll have a base in Lancashire and one in Yorkshire and use those. The flying details, depending on which day we’re playing are still to be finalised.
What crowds are the club expecting?
In the proposition we gave to the RFL and the clubs when we made our proposal to join the competition, we budgeted for 3,400 people.
You must be confident in breaking that quite easily are you?
I would have thought so. It was a pretty conservative estimate but it gives us room, on the positive side, for creating revenue above and beyond the budgets.
Since you were accepted into Super League, has there been a noticeable rise in standards in the French domestic game?
I thought we raised the standard last year and the year before and that’s pulled other clubs up too. Tangible evidence is the Challenge Cup performances of the French sides. We beat Hull KR last year and the year before and we lost in the last minute against Wigan .Then Toulouse got to the semi-final of the Cup after beating Widnes so that suggests the game has progressed well at French Championship level