Sam Tagataese can almost be considered a Devils local.
Not every player raised in New Zealand, among four sisters, with a long NRL career largely based down south, can be claimed as a northsider.
But Tagataese makes a good case. He finished his schooling at Wavell High, he played in a star-packed Colts team at Bishop Park and he made his senior debut in a Devils jersey.
Tomorrow, Tagataese will play his 50th Intrust Super Cup match when the Devils take on PNG Hunters in Lae tomorrow.
Since that Devils debut in 2004 and tomorrow’s milestone game, Tagataese has played more than 170 NRL games, won a premiership with Cronulla and represented Samoa. The Broncos knew him well enough to bring him back to Brisbane for 2018.
Tagataese feels at home at Norths as he reaches the latter stages of a superb football career.
“I’m really appreciative that I can reach 50 games at Cup level because it’s been a really important part of my career,” Tagataese said before the Devils flew out to PNG this morning.
“I remember back to my first games for Norths. That was an exciting time in my career.”
The teenage Tagataese was prominent in one of most fertile patches in the Devils’ 85-year history.
When he was in Year 12 at Wavell High, Greg Inglis was in Year 11. Adam Blair would join them in the Devils’ colts team.
Tagataese’s Queensland Cup debut in 2004 plated him as Devil No. 1018 and he would play 24 matches across the next four seasons.
“I’ve always been grateful for the chances I’ve had,” Tagataese said.
“I can remember coming over from Wellington to play here at Norths and I remember being taken to the club to have a look around. Cooper Cronk was here playing at the time.
“There were a lot of good people around and that helped me to get started.”
Tagataese played 13 matches for Ipswich Jets between 2009 and 2011 but the Devils have been his major Intrust Super Cup club.
And he has a remarkable try-scoring record despite always playing in the forwards for Norths.
Tagataese has 25 tries – 100 points – from his 36 games including four in one match against Tweed Heads in 2007.
“Just the right place at the right time,” Tagataese says his with enormous smile.
Tagataese’s view of Norths’ progress is telling considering his experience.
“There’s something good brewing here,” Tagataese said.
“The boys are believing in the game that (coach Rohan Smith) wants to play.
“There’s a very good bond here and a togetherness. We’re playing for each other.”