FROM HOT dog to top dog, former Dewsbury Rams player Mickael Goudemand was one of the unexpected heroes of the 2018 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
A guest of Rams at last year’s Wembley showpiece, he was centre stage when Catalans Dragons held off Warrington Wolves 20-14 to take the famous trophy out of England for the first time.
The 22-year-old forward played eight games for Dewsbury in 2017 after joining them from Avignon who play in the French domestic competition.
His aim at the time was to force his way into France’s World Cup squad and grab the attention of a Betfred Super League side.
He failed in the first objective, but later had a spell with Catalans’ feeder club St Esteve and was then signed by the Perpignan-based side, making his debut in their Challenge Cup sixth round win over Whitehaven when he scored a brace of tries.
Goudemand was a shock selection for Wembley, not featuring among the 27 Catalans players profiled in the official programme.
When he came off the bench it was only his sixth appearance for the club, but he was involved in the set which led to Dragons’ crucial third try, was singled out for praise by coach Steve McNamara in the post-match press conference and, most importantly, now has a Challenge Cup winner’s medal.
It was a remarkable contrast from his previous visit to Wembley. He recalled: “Last year the Dewsbury club gave me a ticket and I was with my girlfriend eating a hotdog and watching the game – and today I played in the final.
“It is amazing and I am very, very happy.”
Goudemand had expected to be 18th man and found out he was playing at the captain’s run the day before the game when Louis Anderson failed a fitness test on a calf injury.
“The coach said okay you play, so I was very happy,” he added.
“It is only my sixth game, it was a big occasion and the speed of the game was very quick, but I think I did my job.
“I am very happy and very proud and I hope all my family are proud.”
Catalans raced into an early 8-0 lead through a second-minute try by Lewis Tierney and conversion and penalty from Josh Drinkwater.
Ben Murdoch-Masila pulled a try back, converted by Tyrone Roberts, after Tom Lineham had one ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler because of an obstruction in the build-up.
Ben Garcia and Brayden Wiliame crossed for converted tries either side of the break to make it 20-6. George King’s touchdown plus a conversion and penalty from Roberts cut the gap to six points with 11 minutes left and Catalans held out throughout a tense finale.
Goudemand was off the field by that stage and admitted: “It was scary. I think it is more terrible when you are on the bench because you can’t do anything.” McNamara, the ex-England and Bradford Bulls boss who was in charge when Catalans beat Leigh Centurions to avoid relegation in last year’s Million Pound Match, paid tribute to Goudemand afterwards.
He was one of nine French players in the Cup-winning side and the coach said: “His contribution was huge.”
Though Jodie Broughton missed the final due to injury, another Leeds-born player Michael McIlorum was a key figure for Catalans, particularly early on. Former Leeds Rhinos assistant-conditioner Richard Hunwicks is Dragons’ head of performance and club insiders say he has played a vital role in transforming their fortunes this year.
Full-back Tony Gigot became the first Frenchman to win the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match. That came six months after he won an appeal against a two-year ban imposed following an “inappropriate exchange” with an anti-doping official.
Catalans’ win was good news for Castleford Tigers who they visit on Saturday. McNamara admitted he would be happy if his team could forfeit their final five games in the Super-8s.
Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Langi, Drinkwater, Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty. Subs Bousquet, Baitieri, Edwards, Goudemand.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, T King, Charnley, K Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Livett, Hughes, Westwood. Subs Murdoch-Masila, G King, Patton, Philbin.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).