Dylan Napa leaves Canterbury Bulldogs, joins Catalans Dragons

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Dylan Napa’s failure to land a new deal with the Canterbury Bulldogs, leading him to prolonging his career in the Super League, is the latest confirmation of the front-rower’s astounding fall.

Grand final runners-up Catalans Dragons have announced the signing of Napa on a two-year deal from 2022, reuniting the 29-year-old with former Sydney Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce.

The deal was struck after Napa failed to draw interest from NRL clubs.

The forced move to the Super League marks an extraordinary plummet from the heights he had reached between 2017 and 2019, in which he made seven State of Origin appearances with Queensland and won an NRL premiership with the Roosters.

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Napa averaged 50 minutes and 121 metres per match with the Roosters in 2015, before increasing his output to 56 minutes and 123 metres in 2016.

The platform he provided as a prop, combined with his streak of aggression, earned him a Maroons jumper for the opening game of the 2017 series.

And while his numbers in Roosters colours dropped in 2017 and 2018 – he recorded 47 minutes and 98 metres per game in 2017, before registering 41 minutes and 78 metres per match in 2018 – he continued to represent Queensland.

In all but one of his Origin appearances – the last came in the second game of the 2019 series – he started in the front row, partnering the likes of Jarrod Wallace and Josh Papali’i.

Napa joined the Bulldogs after playing off the bench in the Roosters’ 2018 grand final triumph over the Storm, which he celebrated by spending the entire night in his playing kit – boots and all – as he sunk beers.

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The red-headed firebrand was lured to the Bulldogs as a replacement for David Klemmer, who had left for the Knights.

As was evident in the words of then Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, Canterbury saw Napa as a fitting replacement for Klemmer, a Test and State of Origin front-rower.

“Signing someone of Dylan’s toughness and ability is a major coup for the club,” Pay said.

“We really feel that we have got a high-calibre footballer who will be a great addition to both our pack and our playing group as a whole.”

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But three years later, albeit under the reign of new coach Trent Barrett, Napa is no longer wanted by the Bulldogs – and his deteriorating statistics tell the story.

Napa averaged just 35 minutes and 93 metres per match in 2021 as the Bulldogs collected the wooden spoon.

Napa is the third former Canterbury forward to have signed with Catalans during their 21-year history, along with Willie Mason and Sam Kasiano.

Napa’s move to the Dragons will see him recombine with former Roosters assistant Steve McNamara, who’s now the Catalans’ head coach.

Despite Napa’s giant fall in recent years, McNamara is confident he will return to his best at the French club.

“Having worked closely with Dylan at the Roosters, I know first hand the impact he can have in this competition,” McNamara said.

“I spoke many times with him throughout the negotiations, and his will, desire and enthusiasm to get back to his best form was overwhelming.

“He is at a great age for a front-rower, a grand final winner who will be a great addition to our club.”

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