Norths Devils booked their first grand final in 11 years with a determined 34-16 preliminary final win over defending Intrust Super Cup champions Burleigh Bears at Suncorp Stadium today.
The Devils weathered a wave of Burleigh attack in the first half before unleashing the football that drove them to the minor premiership this year.
Norths scored three tries in nine minutes as forwards Michael Sio (30th minute), Danny Levi (32nd minute) and Leivaha Pulu (38th minute) catapulted the Devils to a 20-0 halftime lead.
Burleigh grabbed an intercept try in the second half and a try in the final minute but the Devils kept clear, booking a grand final against Wynnum Manly next Sunday at Dolphin Oval.
The two best teams in the competition this season will meet in the decider, with Wynnum remaining unbeaten through the first nine rounds of the season before the Devils surged home to claim the minor premiership.
Devils coach Rohan Smith has plotted Norths’ return to the grand final during his four-year rebuild of the famous club.
Four players who were with Smith for his first season in 2018 played today – captain Jack Ahearn, Sio, Michael Molo and Moses Noovao-McGreal – along with the cast recruited in recent years.
NRL regulars Danny Levi, Tyrone Roberts and Nene Macdonald again played well today as the Devils won their 17th match from 19 games this year, including their qualifying final win over Tweed Seagulls.
“We looked at this today as an opportunity for the club and we know that we have another opportunity next week against a very good team,” Smith said.
“It was great to get back to Suncorp Stadium which has been so important to the history of this club.”
The Devils have fine memories at Suncorp Stadium – they won the first of six consecutive grand finals at the ground in 1959 with Clive Churchill as captain-coach.
But the last decade hasn’t been as prolific for the Devils, who lost a 2010 grand final to Northern Pride at the ground.
They kept their noses in front throughout today’s match, overcoming a head knock which forced forward Brendan Piakura out of the game in the sixth minute.
Two minutes later, Roberts slotted a penalty goal and the Devils were never headed, withstanding the Bears’ assault on their line before racing downfield to ignite their rush of points late in the first half.
Burleigh closed to 20-6 with Shallin Fuller’s intercept try in the 45th minute but replacement forward Ben Nakubuwai wrestled his way over the tryline in the 62nd minute as the Devils fans breathed easily.
Matthew Milson grabbed a 76th minute try off a Roberts’ kick as the Devils celebrated a hard-fought preliminary final win.
NORTHS DEVILS 34 (Michael Sio, Danny Levi, Leivaha Pulu, Ben Nakubuwai, Matthew Milson tries, Tyrone Roberts 7 goals) bt BURLEIGH BEARS 16 (Shalin Fuller, Sami Sauimula, Kurtis Rowe tries, Josh Rogers 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium.
Photo courtesy QRL