The Norths Devils’ 87th season of senior football ended in a way that the superstitious would have feared – an elimination final loss to the Easts Tigers that hinged on two bouncing kicks.
The first kick sat up and ended in the hands of Marion Seve, who dashed 50m to drive Easts back to level scores in the 56th minute.
And the next was a dagger for the Devils – a fifth-tackle kick that the Tigers took in their own half and passed for a superb 70th minute try to Sam Lavea that would seal a 24-20 Intrust Super Cup win.
The Devils had two chances to respond but their season ended in the way that No.87 has been such an unlucky number for Australia’s cricketers.
With attacking options in centrefield and two minutes remaining, Devils half Sean O’Sullivan was wrongfooted and hurt his knee. He was carried off the field in the final and the Devils, without any replacements left, had to make their miracle plays with only 12 men.
The final efforts typified their improved 2019 season that featured the Devils’ first finals berth since 2012 – they continued to charge at the Tigers’ defence only to have a final-tackle option end over the sideline with seconds remaining.
The match had started well for the Devils with a 6th minute try to Nixon Putt and a 13th minute try to winger Herbie Farnworth pushing Norths to a 10-0 lead. Farnworth collected his 200th point for the season as Norths wen to halftime leading 18-12.
The Devils’ silent dressing room was broken after the match with coach Rohan Smith’s thanks to the players who pushed Norths through their best season in seven years but with the realisation that more is to come in 2020.
Most of the Devils will return but Smith paid tribute to Troy Dargan, who played his 41st and final match in a Norths jersey today before he takes up a two-year NRL contract with South Sydney.
The Devils had joy earlier in the day when the Hastings Deering Colts elimination final went to the home team 40-20 over Easts.
Norths will move into the second week of the finals with hope of defending the cherished Colts premiership from last season.