Former Leeds Rhinos conditioner Richard Hunwicks plotting historic Super League Grand Final win for Catalans Dragons against St Helens

Experienced gained during Leeds Rhinos’ famous back-to-back title wins a decade ago could help Catalans Dragons make history.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 11:49 am

Dragons’ head of performance Richard Hunwicks was on Rhinos’ backroom staff in 2011 and 2012, when they won the Grand Final from fifth place on the table.

Hunwicks later had a spell at Salford Red Devils and was England’s head of performance before joining Catalans in 2017, immediately after they had escaped relegation by beating Leigh Centurions in the million pound game.

Since then, Dragons have gone from strength to strength, winning the Challenge Cup 2018 and finishing top of Betfred Super League this year.

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Richard Hunwicks, right, with Rob Burrow during his time on Rhinos' strength and conditioning staff.

“I am hoping for a three-peat,” Hunwicks said of his third Grand Final, when Catalans meet St Helens on Saturday.

“We have got a lot of Grand Final winners and experience in our squad, though probably more from the staff’s perspective.

“I have been there before with teams and I know how it feels.

“There’s little bits of information and logistics about preparation I can pass on.

Richard Hunwicks with the league leaders' shield. Picture by Laurent Selles/CatalansDragons/SWpix.com.

“There’s unique things like the site visit, how to plan that so it doesn’t impact on the players’ preparation; where people sit, how it feels, understanding the tunnel area and what the atmosphere is like at a Grand Final - any information I can give them so they feel ready for it.”

Catalans lost only four of their 23 league games this year, two of those defeats coming after they had sealed top spot on the table.

Hunwicks reckons their achievement is all the more impressive considering eight of their first 12 league fixtures were away from home, effectively costing the squad one night’s sleep every week.

“Led by Steve Mac, the majority - if not everybody - has bought in,” he said “Credit to the boys for the way they have gone about it and performed consistently - that’s what we want.

“Winning creates good habits and winning habits give you momentum.

“That’s what has happened.”

The French side have beaten Saints twice in three meetings during 2021, including a stunning extra-time success at Magic Weekend, but will need to be at their best against the back-to-back champions at Old Trafford.

“Saints are in very good form, they are a very good team and they are very well-coached,” Hunwicks accepted.

“It will be intense, but we will prepare as well as we can and the whole group will be giving it everything to bring the trophy back to France.

“We will show them a lot of respect, but our attitude to the final is we are going to try and win the game.”

If they do, it will be arguably the greatest moment in the history of the game in France.

“The people of Perpignan are fanatical, passionate, very hard working and they love the club," Hunwicks said.

“The first step was winning the Challenge Cup in 2018 and winning the Grand Final would be huge for showing people what Rugby XIII is.

“This feels like the next step. I remember getting back to the airport after the [Challenge Cup] semi-final in 2018 - you could not believe it, there were people there at 3am with air horns and megaphones.

“That level of excitement will be seen across Perpignan if we can win on Saturday.

“It will ignite interest. There will be more people playing the game and that creates a strong international game.

“It is hugely exciting.”

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