Canaries claim preseason bragging rights
Mitch Jennings - Illawarra Mercury
HE described it as the toughest call of his life but former Helensburgh star Jason Raper’s decision to shift south to Dapto paid early dividends on Saturday with a man of the match performance in the Canaries Challenge Cup triumph.
Raper, who scored two tries in Helensburgh’s grand final victory last season, scored a second half double and kicked two goals as the Canaries overhauled a 16-0 quarter-time deficit to run out winners 28-22.
Raper admitted he was on the end of a few sledges from his former teammates but enjoyed the battle.
“It was a really tough game but that’s what you get when you play the Burgh and that’s why I enjoyed playing there so much,” Raper said.
“People say it’s just a game but Helensburgh’s a lot more to me than that and [moving on] was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
“I just really wanted to challenge myself in a new environment. I was really really comfortable at Helensburgh, I’d been there for eight years, and and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see how I went.
“Everyone [at Dapto] has been so welcoming to the new boys. I think they had a really good group there to start with and they’ve just put the finishing touches on it at the end of last year when they bought a few guys.
“It looks like it’s going to be a really good group but there’s no easy games down here so it’ll be interesting to see how we go.”
Raper is one of several new faces at Dapto with fellow big name recruits Keith Lulia and Joel Reddy and new captain-coach Michael Henderson all standouts in the victory.
It was Dapto’s first piece of major silverware since the 2006 premiership and stamped their claim as genuine contenders for the main prize later this season.
The win was made even more impressive by the absence of another star recruit Beau Henry who was celebrating his engagement.
“If he’d chosen us I don’t think he’d be getting married,” Henderson joked post-match.
“Our first 20 minutes our intensity just wasn’t there but we addressed that in the first quarter and came back and I was very proud of the boys effort.
“We’ve got a good mix of some really good young kids who got a taste of first grade last year and are a year more experienced and a few of us older guys who have that experience.
“We’ve all come together really well and we’ve gelled as a side probably quicker than I thought we would to be honest.
“We’re a new group with seven or eight new guys so it’s a credit to the boys and their approach to preseason it’s been terrific.
“We’re in a good spot at the moment but it’s early days an everyone’s going to be a lot better prepared in a month’s time.”