JOSH Drinkwater admits he is excited as the clock ticks down to Leigh’s Survival Saturday, the “biggest game” of his career.
The Centurions and Catalans battle each other in the Million Pound Game, which will see one top flight side go down.
This is a bit like rugby league’s version of The Hunger Games. One side will stay up, the other faces supposed isolation in the Championship.
Livelihoods are supposedly on the line, although the vultures will be circling to pick off the prime cuts from whoever goes down.
But while half-back Drinkwater is nervous, he admits he is just as excited about what lies in store.
The Aussie said: “I’m nervous, there’s a lot at stake obviously, but I’m also excited. It’s a massive game by far, the biggest of my career.
“I think everyone deals with situations differently, but for me I love the feeling of pressure and the nerves, so I just want to get into the sheds and put the team in the best position to win.
“I’m excited about playing against Luke Walsh and Richie Myler, their two good halves and that itself is a challenge to come out on top of them.”
Drinkwater has experienced the pain of relegation before, with the London Broncos in 2014 and he is not a supporter of the controversial Million Pound Game concept.
He added: “It’s a very weird feeling, something I definitely don’t agree with either.
“What the best solution is I’m not sure, but to think there’s going to be one team unemployed after the game to me is crazy.”
For Leigh this game will mean if their dream of reaching Super League last year turns sour or not, for Catalans it could mean much more.
Losing the Dragons will mean the European element has gone from Super League. It is back to the M62 corridor the game’s bosses are trying to break out of.
And even coach Steve McNamara admits he is in the dark over what owner Bernard Guasch will do if they go down as talk of him walking away persists.
The former England chief said: “I’ve not spoken to Bernard about what he’ll do if we lose. However, he’s been a massive and proud supporter of the club, even before it came into Super League.
“For any club, not just Catalans Dragons, its massive to stay in Super League. Ask anyone from Leigh or Widnes the same question and they would give you the same answer and they all have valid reasons for their club being in the competition.
“We’re no different. We’re a different type of franchise, if you want to call it that, as we’re in France but the effects are no different – it still affects staff and players in the same way as regards their families.
“Everyone’s aware of the consequences of it not going our way. It might be exciting for the crowd in this game but the quality is quite often down. There’s definitely that added pressure and anxiety but we’ve been getting on with it. “
Big-spending Catalans welcome back talisman Greg Bird for this decider but they have gathered a reputation for giving big name players one last pay day and not getting a lot in return.
And one person definitely not surprised they find themselves having to win to survive is McNamara, who flew in from New Zealand to take charge in June.
He added: “It was always a possibility that we might end up in the Million Pound Game.
“Clubs don’t change their coaches when things are going well, do they? If we finished in the Qualifiers, there was always that possibility of being involved in the Million Pound Game, so the fact we are hasn’t come as a huge shock.
“There’s no need to build pressure on the players, they’re fully aware of the importance of this game.
“We’ll be physically and mentally ready to play at 3pm, our focus is on that rather than anything else that’s surrounding it.”
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