August 1, 2020 12:00:21 PM
Steve McNamara believes the Betfred Super League will return with a bang this weekend.
A break in the season of more than four months will come to an end as McNamara’s Catalans Dragons face St Helens behind closed doors at Headingley.
The match is part of a double-header which will also see Leeds, who are theoretically the away team, take on Huddersfield.
The long coronavirus-enforced pause has been tough for the game – with Toronto Wolfpack’s withdrawal having the biggest impact – and McNamara is pleased the action is about to restart.
The former England boss said: “We are trying to get back into the action. These are two great games at Headingley on Sunday to kick the restart off.
“It’s an opportunity for the players, not just to dip their toes in, but I think go straight back in.
“We’ve got a chance to put a great game on first up on Sunday and I know we’re certainly looking forward to it.”
Both of Sunday’s games are catch-up fixtures from games in hand. Headingley hosts a full round next weekend before Saints’ Totally Wicked Stadium does so the weekend after.
The season had barely got going for the Dragons before the stoppage, with games postponed due to the World Club Challenge, Storm Ciara and Leeds’ decision not to travel to France as the Covid-19 pandemic worsened.
McNamara’s side have played just four games but, with three wins, they have a point more than champions Saints.
McNamara said: “We only managed to play four games but winning three games consecutively was a big plus and we’re looking to continue that form, but with a reduced number of games in the competition there is not much room for error.”
The Dragons are likely to come up against England prop James Graham, who will be making his second debut for Saints after rejoining his boyhood club following a hugely successful eight-year spell in Australia.
“It’s great he is back in Super League,” said McNamara, who worked with Graham with the national team.
“He was incredibly influential for St Helens and then he’s gone to the NRL (and) had a great career there.
“If you look through the whole of the competition, the quality of the players is as good as it’s been for a number of years.”
There are also expected to be debuts – interestingly against former clubs – in Sunday’s other fixture.
Kruise Leeming joined Leeds from Huddersfield in off-season while Ashton Golding made the opposite journey – but both players missed the start of the campaign through injury.
Preparations for all sides have been hampered by restrictions on contact but Leeds coach Richard Agar feels he has made the most of the available time.
He said: “We would have liked more to be perfectly honest (but) there’s restrictions around it, so we’re trying to adhere to them.
“Having said that, we’ve probably done a little bit more than we would have done normally when you’re in the muck and bullets and intensity of a season.
“The acid test is going to come during a game. I think we’re not going to know the full impact and ramifications until we get going on Sunday.”