Dragons loose forward Goudemand spent five months with Dewsbury earlier in his career; watch Catalans face St Helens in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final live on Sky Sports Arena from 4.30pm (kick-off 6pm)
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 08/10/21 1:06pm
A significant proportion of neutrals may be Catalans Dragons fans for a day when the French side aim to make history in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final, but there is a corner of West Yorkshire that has an extra reason to support them due to a direct connection.
That is because it was at Championship club Dewsbury Rams where Catalans loose forward Mickael Goudemand got his first taste of rugby league in the UK, spending five months at the Tetley’s Stadium in 2017.
It was a spell that lasted just eight games, including a try in a 36-34 win over compatriots Toulouse Olympique, but it proved the perfect grounding on and off the field for the 25-year-old who is preparing for his and the Dragons’ first Grand Final appearance.
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“I was young, it was the first time I went away from my family, so to stay five months in Dewsbury was good,” Goudemand said.
“In school, we learnt English in the London accent, so when I moved to Dewsbury it was a bit difficult. But after a few days I started to speak like the other players.
“The weather was not the same. I love the Mediterranean culture – the sun and everything – so to live in a different part of the world was very tough.
“Even if it was the summer, it was raining sometimes, but it helped me to become stronger to live away from my family and I met other great people.”
Goudemand grew up in Avignon, playing for the town’s club in the French domestic championship before making the switch to Dewsbury. From there, he was signed by Catalans and was on the interchange bench for their historic 2018 Challenge Cup final win over Warrington Wolves.
The France international has established himself as an important member of the Dragons’ back row too, but he knows there cannot be any let-up from him or his team-mates if they are to become the first overseas team to be crowned Super League champions.
He is wary of the threats posed by Grand Final opponents St Helens, not least of all in captain James Roby – who he used to watch on television – and the man likely to be opposite him in the No 13 role, Super League Dream Team selection Morgan Knowles.
“I remember when I started to watch Super League he was playing – he had more hair,” Goudemand said of Roby. “But he’s a very good player.
“They are all great players, so I have to lift my level against them. I love to play in the back row and Morgan Knowles, at the moment, is one of the best in that position so it’s a great challenge for me.”
Unlike their football-playing brethren who have pulled on the Manchester United shirt down the years, French rugby league players who have graced the pitch at Old Trafford are few and far between.
It will therefore be a special day for Goudemand and his French team-mates to follow in the footsteps of some illustrious names, not least of all if they back up their League Leaders’ Shield success by claiming Super League’s top prize.
“It will be amazing,” Goudemand said. “A lot of French players like Eric Cantona and Paul Pogba play for Manchester United or used to.
“So, for us, even to play [at Old Trafford] is amazing. If we win it will be awesome.”