A desperate act of defence that cost a young forward a finals campaign has helped drive Norths Devils towards tomorrow’s Hastings Deering Colts decider against Townsville Blackhawks at Suncorp Stadium.
Jacob Chambers will watch from the stands, nursing the broken arm suffered in the Devils’ comprehensive win against the Cutters in Mackay last month.
That was a significant night in the Devils’ season – the fifth win of an eight-match streak that heads into tomorrow’s grand final.
“Jacob broke his arm trying to stop a try – it was a desperate tackle and that didn’t go unnoticed by our players,” Devils coach Kevin Neighbour said.
“That was an example of what was needed to win games at this time of the year.”
While Chambers was taken to Mackay Hospital for treatment, his teammates finished off the Cutters in a win that ensured the Devils would finish among the top teams.
“The lads stayed back in the dressing room that night and really enjoyed each other’s company. It was a sign that they were starting to gel and starting to understand that they could go a long way this season,” Neighbour said.
“If they could get into a grand final, then anything could happen.
“That night in Mackay was for significant for us – it was just a shame that Jake is one of a few of our players who can’t play (in the grand final) because of injury.”
After the Mackay match, the young Devils had to fight hard in their final regular-season match to defeat Sunshine Coast 29-28. Two weeks ago, they muscled up against the Blackhawks in a polished major semi-final victory.
That gave the Devils a week off into the grand final, meaning tomorrow’s clash will be their second in four weeks.
“That’s not a problem for us,” Neighbour said.
“It’s been a long year for some of these lads so the chance to have a week off last weekend was important for us.”
Tomorrow’s squad includes three players from the Devils’ colts team that fell to Redcliffe in last year’s grand final.
The squad will also include up to seven players from the Mal Meninga Cup team that lost to Souths in a gripping Under 18 grand final in May.
“Our lads have learned a lot this season and they’re ready for this game,” Neighbour said.
“They have earned the right to be there and they’re waiting for the challenge.”