James Daley is back as Waratahs look to book a place in the Southern Inland grand final for the third time in as many years.
Waratahs welcome back the representative prop as they look to defeat Leeton for the first time this season in the major-semi final at Leeton No.1 Oval on Saturday.
The Wagga club has only lost twice this season, both times to the Phantoms, but Daley believes they can reverse those results with plenty on the line.
“They are an incredibly talented side but we just have to stick to our structures and game plan,” Daley said.
“We have to control the ball – that is the biggest thing.
“Their counterattack is unbelievable, and that is where they score 90 per cent of their points, so if we can control the ball, let them make the mistakes and piggy back us down the field, as they do give away a lot of penalties, it will help.
“We still have to move the ball but just not throw those 50-50 passes.”
Coach Angus Macleod believes Daley’s return will be a big boost to their chances.
“Having him back with give some extra oomph to the front row," Macleod said.
“It will certainly be welcomed with open arms.”
It leaves the team virtually at full strength with the unavailable Sean Kearns the only one missing.
Daley had a false start a few weeks ago with his troublesome heel.
He was named to play a fortnight ago before pulling out after training but is confident it is right.
“It is a lot better now,” Daley said.
Daley hasn’t played since the 54-27 loss to Leeton five weeks ago.
Returning to the club three years ago, Daley was part of the team who lost to Albury in the 2015 grand final before the club went through undefeated last year.
Despite not having the same record, the prop doesn’t believe there is much difference between the two teams.
“It is up there, we have some new talent and some new forwards who have really lifted the level of our forward pack while our back line is just as good as last year’s,” he said. “It is a very solid side and just as good as the last couple of years.”
Waratahs have made plenty of changes since taking on Leeton last time.
Macleod believes they are better positioned now.
“We’re certainly going across their with the belief we have the side to beat Leeton,” he said.
“I think this is the best back line that we have got and they’ve only played together for the last few weeks.
"They are still starting to find their feet but last weekend is a good indicator that things are pointing in the right direction.”