A “one club” feeling has driven the Norths Devils within reach of a Colts premiership on Sunday that would round out a fine rebuilding year at Bishop Park.
The Devils will meet the Townsville Blackhawks in the Hastings Deering Colts decider at Suncorp Stadium with players who have taken different journeys in 2018.
The Under 20 grand final squad includes three players who reached Intrust Super Cup level this season, seven who played in the Under 18 grand final and several who featured in the open-age Brisbane Rugby League.
The spread of talent was a key factor in the Devils’ club championship victory this season – Norths’ first championship since 2010.
“This has really been a whole club approach this year – our players love being part of Norths Devils, not just the Colts,” coach Kevin Neighbour said.
“(Intrust Super Cup coach) Rohan Smith really brought that approach to the club this year. Our players can interact with players across the grades and know that they’re a part of one club.
“They have loved being part of that and that’s been one of the reasons we’ve been able to reach this grand final.”
Neighbour will settle on his final 17-man squad this weekend after using 39 players throughout the season. That’s the same number used by Smith for his first Intrust Super Cup season as the Devils overhauled the playing and coaching staff in 2018.
The Devils go into the grand final off a week’s rest after toppling the Blackhawks 18-14 in the major semi-final in Townsville two weeks ago.
The Blackhawks set up a rematch this Sunday after pegging back the Northern Pride in last weekend’s qualifying final.
The Devils and Blackhawks were the best teams in the regular season, each winning 15 of their 20 matches but Townsville’s sole draw gave them the minor premiership.
The teams met only once in the regular season – the Blackhawks defeated Norths 46-6 in Townsville in round 7.
“That game was a reminder for us of how good this competition is,” Neighbour said.
“This Colts comp is a step-up from some of the age-restricted competitions that our lads had played in. That game helped us a lot.
“Townsville is a good team. They have a strong forward pack and they’re a team that can get away good offloads. They will have a lot of talent on the park.
“But are lads are ready for the challenge. They’ve worked hard this season and they’re ready for Sunday.”