Mark Percival expects Catalans to be serial title contenders after a Grand Final repeat with St Helens was confirmed as the 2022 season opener.
Saints will take on the Dragons on Thursday February 10, four months on from their tense 12-10 win over the French side. Catalans coach Steve McNamara has since added NRL Mitchell Pearce and Dylan Napa to his squad and centre Percival expects them to be major Old Trafford rivals again next year.
Percival said: “One hundred percent, especially with the squad they have and the signing they’ve made. Pearce has a lot of NRL and State of Origin experience, and will bring exactly what James Maloney did to the team.
“The rest of the squad is really strong with a lot of hard-working players, and I think the turning point for them was being able to win away from home regularly. I’m sure that will continue and it’s a big game for us.
“They will be looking for some revenge and anyone who watched the Grand Final will have seen that it was intense and non-stop for the whole 80 minutes. I’m expecting the same again in February.”
Percival insists that Kristian Woolf’s side won’t lack any motivation despite securing a third straight Super League title in October. He said: “Whatever we’ve been doing has been working, but we need to make sure we keep that drive and hunger in our bellies to keep it going.
“We’ve just started back this week and everyone’s excited about it being a new year and new challenge. That’s what you find at this club – everyone wants to win that much that the hunger is always there even if we’ve won three in a row. Every lad in this group wants to keep that going now.”
Percival’s 2020 centre partner Kevin Naiqama has returned Down Under after his starring Grand Final role, but has been replaced by Tongan duo Will Hopoate and Konrad Hurrell. Percival added: “Missing Kev is massive – with what he brought as a person and a player, it’s gutting he won’t be out there.
“But the guys that have come in are great lads and players, and that competition for places will only give me some more drive. Nobody’s position here is safe.”
Newly promoted Toulouse kick off their Super League campaign on the Saturday, which also sees Channel 4 ’s first televised live game between Leeds and Warrington.
Easter sees the competition’s Rivals Round which includes a maiden French derby between Catalans and Toulouse on April 14, with the Grand Final at Old Trafford on September 24.
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