HISTORY, particularly that of the rugby league variety, has a habit of tossing up omens. For the proud Dapto Canaries club that has gone 10 years without a premiership, history bodes well for their 2016 premiership hopes.
The current side captain-coached by Michael Henderson has now gone past the midway point of the season without a loss and are the overwhelming favourites to claim this year’s crown.
Should they justify that favouritism by claiming this year’s title it would fit nicely in the club’s rich history 50 years after they broke through for their maiden premiership in 1966 under captain-coach Garry McDougall.
That side will re-unite this Friday at Dapto Leagues Club ahead of Saturday’s top of the table clash with Collegians on Saturday.
Ironically it was Collegians who the Canaries upset 13-6 on grand final day in 1966, 55 years after it was one of the Illawarra Rugby League’s five foundation clubs in 1911, to win their first title.
To do it they had to beat overwhelming favourites Collies – also hunting their first premiership – captain-coached by 1963 Kangaroo Tourist Kevin Smyth. Down 4-2 at halftime, five goals from fullback Russell Fredricks and late try to halfback ‘Fritzi’ Davis sealed the win.
“There was a lot of excitement just about being in a first grade grand final,” Kevin ‘Dutchy’ Holland, who came on in the second half and played a key role in the decider, recalled this week.
“The township really got behind us. All the shop windows were decked out in blue and gold and people went in early and put the colours up around the Showground.
“We were definitely the underdogs. Collies were minor premiers and they beat us in the major semi. They had the big cake ordered because it was their first year in grand final so for one of us it was going to be the first time.
“It was great for the town because they were the reason the club got started. The players all lived local and the town really got behind us and it was a real community celebration.”
Long the Illawarra league’s whipping boys to that point, that breakthrough crown set in motion a golden era that netted 11 premierships in following two decades, a number that swelled to 15 by their 2006 premiership.
“The club had a big turnaround in the club around 1963,” Lionel Simmonds, who captain-coached the Canaries to the 1968 title two years later, said.
“There was a change in personnel when [former Canterbury and Newtown five-eighth ] Kenny Rowlands coached in 64-65 and he got us to the finals in 65 so a lot of things changed then. Garry took over in 66 and we went through and won the grand final.
“Dapto then became recognised as one of the strong clubs in the district.”
After a 55-year wait, second-rower Noel Morris can still recall the celebrations back at Dapto League Club.
“We came in and we all got picked up and chaired around,” Morris recalls.
“There was about a thousand people in the old auditorium you could barely move and they were trying to get us up on stage so they had to carry us across.”
Allan Fitzgibbon’s 1976 team and Justin Holbrook’s 2006 side will also be honoured at Dapto Leagues Club on Friday but most attention will be on the men of 1966 who turned the tide of history.