Norths Devils will have a strong contingent of players to choose from when they open their Intrust Super Cup finals campaign against Tweed Seagulls at Bishop Park on Sunday.
Coach Rohan Smith was able to rest several key Devils last Saturday night as the minor premiers closed out the regular season with a visit to the Ipswich Jets.
Captain Jack Ahearn and frontline players including Jon Reuben, Leivaha Pulu and Moses Noovao-McGreal watched from the stands as the Devils got through plenty of defence against a determined Ipswich team in a 30-22 loss.
The Jets dominated possession and finished their season on a high while the Devils had a valuable hitout before this weekend’s qualifying final with the fourth-placed Seagulls, with the winner to progress to the preliminary final in a fortnight.
The Devils finished the season with a 15-2 win-loss record, finishing three wins clear of their rivals as they claimed the club’s first minor premiership since 1998.
Ahearn, Reuben, Pulu and Noovao-McGreal will be back this weekend with hooker Danny Levi and forward Brendan Piakura also returning for the Devils’ finals run.
Winger Nene Macdonald is ready after overcoming some minor injury niggles to make his Devils debut last Saturday night alongside Colts forward Sosefo Filipine.
Five-eighth Tyrone Roberts is hoping to play in a clash that is forecast to have sunny and warm conditions, making for an ideal afternoon of finals football.
“Full credit to Ipswich for the way they played on Saturday night,” Devils coach Rohan Smith said.
“That was a good hitout for us and we’ll be ready for Sunday’s game.
“We’ll treat these finals as the start of something completely new for us, not worrying about what has happened before in this season.”
The Devils have been without Brendan Frei and Tony Tumusa in recent months after the pair suffered season-ending injuries.
They’re recovering well and focused on next season while their teammates prepare for the eight-team finals series.
Wynnum-Manly will host Burleigh Bears in the other qualifying final this weekend while the elimination finals will pit Redcliffe against Sunshine Coast and Souths Logan against Townsville.
“This is a quality competition so we know this will be a really competitive finals series – there is no other way in the Intrust Super Cup,” Smith said.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
The winners of the qualifying finals head into the preliminary finals, to be played at Suncorp Stadium on NRL grand final day, while the losers will play the winners of the elimination finals.