Norths Devils Colts delivered the club’s first premiership in seven years with a stirring grand final triumph over Townsville Blackhawks at Suncorp Stadium today.
The Devils built their win on a remarkable defensive effort, absorbing wave after wave of Blackhawks’ attacking raids in the second half of the 20-16 win.
It was the Devils’ first premiership on grand final day since the 2011 Colts victory and added to the Club Championship awarded earlier this month.
Coach Kevin Neighbour had one overriding instruction on the white board in the Devils change room: “One team. One Badge. One Dream.”
Neighbour said he knew the Devils would need the slogan even after they surged to a 16-0 lead after 24 minutes.
Life was good for the Devils when player-of-the-match Nesta Watene slipped a superb offload to Liam Horne for a classy try.
But this game was never going to be easy.
The Blackhawks raced in two tries before halftime and then battered the Devils’ line early in the second half with repeat sets and three consecutive penalties.
The Devils’ desperation was typified by Jordan Riki’s 48th minute tryline tackle that blunted another golden chance for the Blackhawks and handed a changeover to Norths.
“This was always going to be a hard game,” Neighbour said.
“Townsville are a very good team and, even when we led 16-0, we knew 16 points was never going to be enough.
“They were going to get their time with the ball and we would have to defend.”
Colts games aren’t always known for their brick-wall defence but the Devils found the motivation to repel Townsville.
Some of that stemmed from some grand final heartbreak. Three of the players, including co-captains Kobe Hetherington and Joseph McGuire, were part of the team that lost the Colts grand final to Redcliffe last year.
Seven of the players had experienced a gutting two-point loss in the Under 18 grand final in May.
But the Devils would not be disappointed today.
They began to claw back in the 60th minute when Gerome Burns had the ball on remote control, kicking into the corner and forcing a Blackhawks dropout in a decisive momentum change.
Four minutes later, the Devils sealed the match when David Fauid breezed past a beaten Townsville defence to score towards the right corner.
The Blackhawks crossed with 10 seconds remaining – there may never have been a try at Suncorp Stadium when the referee’s whistle for a try was greeted with such joy by the defending team.
“Our guys just kept turning up for each other,” Neighbour said.
“We wrote on the white board: stay connected, stay patient and control the things you can control.
“Our guys drew on their experience and their determination today. They wanted to win that.”
The Devils had started brilliantly, with McGuire crossing in the ninth minute after the Blackhawks had conceded a penalty.
Between the 11th and 14th minutes, Norths defended two consecutive sets on their line in an early sign of their mettle.
And Watene then scooped up another pinpoint kick from Burns for a 16th minute try.
As the Devils celebrated in a deafening dressing room, wearing newly printed “Premiers” T-shirts, Neighbour quietly went back to the whiteboard.
“GF done,” he wrote.
- The Devils’ last Colts premiership in 2011 included Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima
- Tensions flared in the 45th minute when play was briefly stopped after push-and-shove from both teams
- The Devils won the penalty count 8-7 but the Blackhawks received three consecutive penalties (44th, 45th and 47th minute) that tested Norths
- In the 67th minute, Devils winger Fruean Easthope saved a try when he bundled the Blackhawks into touch
- Liam Horne played very well at centre, moving from the forward pack after Elliott Vincent was ruled out yesterday with injury