Catalans Dragons' historic season in the 2021 Betfred Super League has been recognised by a dual award from the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association.
Full-back Sam Tomkins, the England captain, has been voted the association’s player of the year for the third time and owner Bernard Guasch will receive the prestigious Merit Award for services to Rugby League.
The announcement comes a few hours before the French club play the biggest home match in their history, a semi-final against Hull KR in Perpignan that will send the winners to a maiden Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday, October 9.
Tomkins polled two-thirds of the votes of association members to land the Ray Fletcher Shield ahead of Castleford’s Paul McShane and the St Helens trio of Lachlan Coote, Alex Walmsley and Morgan Knowles.
Association chairman Trevor Hunt said:
“Once again Sam Tomkins has been outstanding in a season that has been difficult for all.
“Compared to his two previous wins in 2011 and 2012, Sam is now a more mature player who influences the game with different skills, honed over a decade at the top.
“He polled over two thirds of the votes and, in a season where there have been a host of other outstanding candidates, his contribution to the continued rise of the Catalans Dragons has made him a shining light.”
Tomkins, who is also on the Steve Prescott Man of Steel short-list, paid tribute to his team-mates.
“The season’s gone well for me but it goes hand in hand as a full-back, you can play well if the guys in front of you are doing well.
“We’ve got players in the team that have been eight and nine out of 10 all year and, for me to play in a confident group on the front foot, as a full-back that gives you the opportunity to play well.
“I’m reaping the rewards of the guys in front of me playing well.”
While Tomkins has pulled the strings on the field since his move from Wigan, the remarkable progress of the Dragons, who won the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 2018, has been masterminded by Guasch, who founded the club from an amalgamation of St Esteve and XIII Catalan and took them into Super League in 2006.
“Bernard Guasch has driven French Rugby League to new heights and backed his passion for the game, not only with drive and ambition, but heavy financial commitment too,” said Hunt.
“Throughout this difficult season he has ensured Catalans Dragons have continually made the trips to England, when such journeys have not been reciprocated, and the reward has been a record-breaking season and the League Leaders' Shield.
“This reward is not just for this season but for his contribution to French Rugby League over many years, as a player, coach, administrator and owner.
“He has had a dream for French Rugby League and for Catalans Dragons that is now finally starting to become a reality. A most worthy winner of the RLWBA Merit Award.”