|Full name Catalans Dragons XIII|
Short name Catalan Dragons
Colours White, Red and Gold
Coach Laurent Frayssinous
Chairperson Bernard Guasch
Competition Super League
|Nickname(s) The Dragons|
Location Perpignan, France
Captain Rémi Casty
|Ground(s) Stade Gilbert Brutus
Perpignan, France (13,000)|
Arenas/Stadiums Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Stade Gilbert Brutus
The Catalans Dragons (French and Catalan: Dragons Catalans) are a professional rugby league club in Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales, France. They play in the Super League, and are the only team in the competition from outside Northern England. The Dragons play home games at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
- 2000 2004 foundation
- 2005 2007 Super League and Challenge Cup final
- 2008 present playoffs and progression
- Stade Aim Giral 2006 2007
- Stade Gilbert Brutus 2007 present
- 2017 transfers
- Coaching roster
The club was formed in 2000 by a merger of XIII Catalan and AS Saint Estève into Union Treiziste Catalane (UTC). They won the 2005 French Rugby League Championship and the Lord Derby Cup in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, they were granted a Super League licence, taking the name Catalans Dragons. UTC continues to compete in the French Championship's Elite One Championship as a feeder club for the Dragons, now under the name Saint-Esteve XIII Catalan.
The club was founded in 2000 after the merger of two teams in Perpignan, XIII Catalan and AS Saint Estève. The merged team took the name Union Treiziste Catalane, often abbreviated to UTC.
XIII Catalan were founded in 1935 and thus were founding members of the French Championship. During their run, they won 11 French Championships and 11 Lord Derby Cups. AS Saint Estève were founded in 1965. They won six championships and four Lord Derby Cups. There were two other clubs in the twelve-team competition in Pyrénées-Orientales: Pia XIII and Saint-Cyprien. In 2002 Saint-Cyprien joined the merged UTC side. UTC proved successful, winning the 2005 French Championship and the 2004 and 2005 Lord Derby Cups.
2005-2007: Super League and Challenge Cup final
In 2005, UTC applied to join the Super League, the highest tier of professional rugby league in Europe. They were selected ahead of Toulouse Olympique and Villeneuve Leopards to enter the league for the 2006 season. The franchise was named Catalans Dragons; UTC remained in the French Championship to serve as a reserve club. The club set a target for 75% of the players be qualified to play for France.
The Catalans are not the first French side to play in the Super League, but the first, Paris Saint-Germain, lasted only two seasons. Both rugby codes have their stronghold in the southwest of France, and the north of France is more football-friendly. Players on loan from French league clubs had to play for their own clubs as well, train in the south and take the long journey to Paris or England for matches.
To ensure that the Catalans had the best French players available to them, the French rugby league decided to let them sign players from other French clubs without paying a transfer fee. The league also would not relegate them from the Super League for three years, even if they finished last. Many believe that the Catalans will be joined by other French clubs in the Super League, but the whole idea of expanding into France ths critics. The Catalans won their first ever Super League match 38–30 against Wigan on 11 February 2006, at Stade Aimé Giral. The club encountered a predictable steep learning curve in their first season in the Super League. Many of less experienced French players ran out of steam towards the end of a gruelling, injury marred campaign. A particular loss was that of key playmaker and Captain Stacey Jones, who missed much of the season with a broken arm. The team eventually finished bottom of the table, but the three-year exemption from relegation made them remain in the Super League.
The year 2007 saw a strong recruitment by new coach Mick Potter with a string of high-profile signings from Australia, including Clint Greenshields, Casey McGuire, Jason Croker and Aaron Gorrell, all seasoned NRL campaigners. Gorrell, a goalkicking 'hooker', impressed in the first month but sustained a bad knee injury in February's win over Leeds and missed the rest of the season. On 10 March 2007, it was announced that Newcastle Knights hooker Luke Quigley would cover Gorrell's absence for the remainder of the campaign, but a number of players sustained injuries throughout the campaign. Young stars Dimitri Pelo and Vincent Duport in the backs impressed, and show real promise for the future and for young talent in France, in general. Recent addition to the Catalans is former Canberra Raiders, Melbourne Storm and Parramatta Eels Halfback Andrew McFadden who is now their Assistant Coach. Andrew said upon signing with the Catalans that he was doing it for his cousin, former prop Joe McCarthy, his "shining light".
On 29 July 2007, the Catalans became the first French side and first non-British side to reach the final of the Challenge Cup after beating Wigan 37–24 in the semi final. The Catalans lost the 2007 Challenge Cup Final with St Helens at Wembley Stadium on 25 August 2007. They also managed to finish the 2007 season off the bottom of the table, ending the season in a respectable tenth place.
2008-present: playoffs and progression
In 2008, the Catalans secured their first playoff berth by finishing third on the league ladder largely on the back of a ferocious forward pack. They smashed Warrington 46–8 in their first-ever playoff match on 13 September in Perpignan, but 20 September saw Wigan blow open what had been a close game in the second half of their elimination semifinal, with Wigan ultimately winning 50–26.
Coach Mick Potter left the Dragons at the end of the 2008 season to replace Daniel Anderson at St Helens. He has been replaced by fellow Australian Kevin Walters. Recruitment for 2009 has been the most exciting to date of the Super League clubs and includes Stephen Bell and Kangaroo Jason Ryles, replacing the retiring John 'Sargeant' Wilson and Alex 'Super' Chan. The Dragons also recruited Greg Bird, about to sign with Bradford but his visa got refused by the UK authorities.
In 2009, they were involved in two historic milestones for the sport of rugby league in Europe. During their match away to the Welsh club Crusaders on 23 May, the two clubs played the first European Super League match to not feature an English team. History was also created on 20 June, when the club played in the first Super League game to be played in Spain, at Barcelona's Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, the venue for the 1992 Summer Olympics, against Warrington. The Dragons led 10–6 at halftime, but Warrington finished as the winners 12–24. The purpose of the latter fixture was to promote the sport in Catalonia, with around 1000 tickets being sold in the local area, and the game was televised on the Catalan channel El 33. Immediately after the game, Walters commented that the event in Spain could become an annual one, apparently complementing comments made by the club's general manager about using a new high-speed link between Perpignan and Spain, supposed to start running within two years.
In 2016 Catalans Dragons celebrated ten years in the Super League competition After a recruitment drive, which saw the likes of Glenn Stewart, Dave Taylor and Willie Mason make the move to Perpignan from the NRL, expectations were high. Despite opening defeats to Wigan and Hull FC, the Dragons edged Leeds 32-28 in round three which sparked a run of seven wins from their next eight matches.Following their 42-32 win over Salford at the end of April, Laurent Frayssinous’ side sat second in the table, level on points with leaders Warrington, and looked to be assured of a top-four and play-off spot should their form continue. Unfortunately for the Dragons it didn’t as a series of injury setbacks to numerous key players in the second half of the season saw them drop down the table.Catalans lost their final six regular season games which meant they headed into the Super 8s two points adrift of fourth-placed and in-form St Helens. The Dragons’ fortunes didn’t improve and five defeats from seven saw them finish the season in sixth place and miss out on a play-off spot.After a difficult two years at Huddersfield, Jodie Broughton’s move to the south of France saw him kick-start his career.The winger scored 19 tries in 2016 including four in the Dragons’ 30-12 win over St Helens in April. Star recruit Todd Carney was released after two impressive seasons at Catalans.
Stade Aimé Giral: 2006-2007
The Catalans moved into the stadium in 2006, when they were accepted into Super League. They ground shared with rugby union side USA Perpignan, which own and operate the stadium, but it is a multipurpose stadium used occasionally for other sports and events.
Stade Gilbert Brutus: 2007-present
The Stade Gilbert Brutus was opened in 1962 and has hosted mostly rugby league and union. It was previously the home to Northern Catalonia rugby league team. When the Dragons moved in the capacity was just over 4000. The Catalans have redeveloped and expanded the ground to 13,000 since they moved here.