DAPTO’S premiership defence has received a timely boost with captain-coach Michael Henderson set to return from injury in Sunday’s major semi-final clash with Collegians.
Henderson hasn’t played since the Canaries big win over Thirroul at Dapto Showground in round 10 but has overcome a niggling calf injury in time to spearhead his side’s finals charge.
It comes just a fortnight after key half Beau Henry made a seamless return from what was feared to be a season-ending knee injury in the Canaries final-round win over Helensburgh.
The inclusions will bolster a side that claimed a second straight minor premiership largely without the services of two of their biggest stars, with stand-in skipper Mick Murphy believing the return of the two big guns can give his side a finals edge.
“They’re obviously two class players, two NRL players,” Murphy said.
“We’ve probably lost JD [Jamie Dunning] for the year but we’ve got a pretty handy player coming back in Hendo and to get your halfback back is a big boost.
“Collies have two great halves in Boyley [Jarrod Boyle] and Ben Jones that really kept them in both games we’ve played against them this year so it’s a big boost for us to have Beauy back.
“The initial diagnosis was disappointing for him but being the bloke he is and the team player he is, he was always there.
“He’s the voice of our team, he’s been there every game, before games, at halftime, he’s always had his input. We’ve missed him on the field but he’s always been around.
“His kicking game is a big thing for us and just his talk in attack so it’s massive for us.”
The Canaries walked a much tougher path to the minor premiership this season than they’re undefeated run in 2016, but Murphy said his side have well and truly set their sights on the higher prize.
“[The minor premiership] wasn’t something we talked about at the start of the year,” Murphy said.
“It’s a different team, there’s been a turnover players so it’s all about 2017 as far as we’re concerned. As a playing group every year is special.
“We knew we’d be the hunted team this year but we knew last year, with the players we’d signed, that teams were going to be after us so it wasn’t really anything new or different for us.
“It was a bit stop-start at the beginning of the season, we had some disruptions in the preseason and all that wet weather that affected all sides but we were lucky to have a run of seven games in a row and it’s what we built our season around.
“We knew that we had to do it then to take it into the finals and we’ll be ready t go this weekend.”
There’s been no splitting sides one and two this season with the league heavyweights splitting their two clashes both by a margin of just two points. They might have pipped them at the minor premiership post, but Murphy insists the Canaries know what they’re up against in the Dogs this week.
“Collies have been outstanding all year, they were the front-runners and we had to chase them down,” Murphy said.
“We had two really good games against them but we were pretty disappointed with some of the tries we let in both games. There were a couple of soft tries on our goal-line and that’s something we took away from it.
“We’ve definitely addressed it as forward pack and as a middle and I don’t think you’ll see any soft tries this weekend.”