Tears of re­lief, and de­spair, but coaches united in call for change

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RUGBY LEAGUE -

LEIGH CEN­TU­RI­ONS 10 CATA­LANS DRAGONS 26 MIL­LION POUND GAME

TEARS were shed among both sets of play­ers af­ter Cata­lans Dragons’ vic­tory over Leigh, which pre­served their Su­per League sta­tus and sent their op­po­nents back down to the Cham­pi­onship.

Cata­lans coach Steve McNa­mara, the for­mer Eng­land boss, and his op­po­site num­ber Neil Jukes both con­demned the con­cept of the Mil­lion Pound Game, which was in­tro­duced three years ago as part of the move to re­store pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion to the game.

The Dragons, em­broiled in a rel­e­ga­tion fight de­spite fin­ish­ing three places off the bot­tom of Su­per League, sal­vaged their spot with a sec­ond-half fight­back high­lighted by a brace of tries from full-back Lewis Tier­ney, but the cel­e­bra­tions were muted.

“There’s lots of tears in the dress­ing room,” McNa­mara said. “They’re tears of re­lief, there was a re­lease of a huge amount of ten­sion from ev­ery­body in­volved.

“I thought our play­ers showed huge re­spect at the end of the game and I was pleased about that.

“We prob­a­bly pro­duced our best per­for­mance of the sea­son un­der the most ex­treme pres­sure.”

McNa­mara, who gave up two jobs in Auck­land to re­turn to Su­per League in June, will now be­gin the task of re­build­ing the for­tunes of the Cata­lans club af­ter they came so close to be­ing rel­e­gated for the first time in their 12year his­tory.

“We can’t be sat in this room again,” he said. “We’ve got some things we have to ad­dress and we can now start to plan and get Cata­lans into a po­si­tion where they can com­pete in Su­per League.

“It’s a big job, this chal­lenge is dif­fer­ent to any other job in the world of rugby league. Of course one or two play­ers will be leav­ing and some will be com­ing in, but the big­gest area for im­prove­ment is the over­all struc­ture. It’s about set­ting up a sup­port mech­a­nism to give play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to be the best they can be.”

The Dragons are ex­pected to lose both half-backs Richie Myler, who has signed with Leeds for 2018, and Luke Walsh, but McNa­mara says he will be do­ing his best to re­tain the ser­vices of Tier­ney, whose loan spell from Wi­gan ended af­ter Saturday’s game.

“Lewis was out­stand­ing,” McNa­mara said. “He’s in­te­grated re­ally well into the group and he’s cer­tainly a player we’ll look at try­ing to keep if at all pos­si­ble.”

Al­though the Mil­lion Pound Game once more gen­er­ated an enor­mous amount of in­ter­est, McNa­mara and Jukes both called for the con­cept to be scrapped.

“If you want pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion, take the gloves off and have no salary cap,” McNa­mara said. “Let the clubs spend what they want.”

Jukes said: “This was all about not los­ing a game. The uncer­tainty sur­round­ing this sit­u­a­tion is ridicu­lous.

“You talk a lot about player wel- fare and men­tal health, but that comes around job se­cu­rity so this is hyp­o­crit­i­cal of what we stand for. There’s got to be a way for clubs to get up, but ul­ti­mately peo­ple lose jobs and that’s sick­en­ing.

“There are guys in the chang­ing room who are tough men and they’re cry­ing.”

Al­though Leigh owner Derek Beau­mont has pledged to top up the re­duced £750,000 cen­tral fund­ing in or­der to main­tain a full-time club in the Cham­pi­onship, Jukes ex­pects to lose play­ers fol­low­ing their rel­e­ga­tion.

“No doubt the agents will be back on be­cause I know they’ve been touted out to other clubs,” he said.

“We’ll have to see who wants to stay.

“It’s an ab­so­lute mine­field,” he added.

“We’ll just have to re­group and prob­a­bly look at do­ing what Hull KR did last year.”

DOWN AND OUT: Leigh Cen­tu­ri­ons’ Matty Daw­son is de­jected af­ter rel­e­ga­tion from Su­per League.

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