Henderson hitting high notes in season leading from front

Taieri loosie Nick Henderson practises last night in preparation for tomorrow’s Dunedin premier...
Taieri loosie Nick Henderson practises last night in preparation for tomorrow’s Dunedin premier club final. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Who is Nick Henderson?

Well, he is not that Dunedin guy by the same name who plays guitar, sings, writes songs and heads the band, Little Sunday.

Same name, similar vintage, physical resemblance and all, but a different person.

He met that bloke in a bar one night and they had a good laugh.

This Nick Henderson is the occasional skipper for Taieri and the no-nonsense robust loose forward.

The 23-year-old has really impressed this season and has been instrumental — hah — in helping Taieri reach the premier final.

He cannot play guitar, though. Well, not much.

"I think I can only play one song but I snapped the tendon in my finger a few years ago and I haven’t really played since then," Henderson said.

Probably just as well. He has put all that extra energy into rugby and he has had a tremendous campaign.

He earned a trial for Otago last month and it was well deserved. He has been one of the best players in the tournament this season.

Henderson is a head-down, no-frills type of player. He always finds a way to contribute, whether that is a bustling tackle, a big hit or he popping up where needed and making a crucial pass in the chain.

Taieri assistant coach Scott Guthrie said he had really grown as a player.

"Every week he just gets better and better and he is just a guy who leads from the front," Guthrie said.

"He carries hard, he runs hard, he hits hard and he just has massive respect right through our club."

Henderson, who is from Te Anau, boarded at Otago Boys’ and linked up with Taieri when he left school and "I haven’t looked back".

"They are an enjoyable bunch to play with and the team has been going well. I guess that makes it easier for me to do my thing as well and I’ve just really enjoyed playing this year."

Covid-19 threatened to ruin the season but the tournament was able to go ahead eventually and has been one of the closest in many years.

Taieri set the benchmark during the round robin. The Eels seemed to always find a way to win the close ones but had a hiccup in the quasi quarterfinal against Southern, losing 7-5.

They rebound in the semifinal, beating Harbour 25-8 to join University in tomorrow’s final at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It is a rematch of last season. But Henderson, an apprentice carpenter, is hopeful there will be a different outcome this time, though.

University scored in the final minute of the match to seal a dramatic 38-31 win.

"It was a sinking feeling after that final last year. It is a game I won’t forget.

"Phil Young gave us an old-school rev-up at halftime which really got the boys firing. But we fell just short which was heartbreaking but we are lucky enough to have another crack this weekend."

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