It’s been just over four years to the day since Jack Ahearn sat down with Rohan Smith for a meeting that sparked Norths Devils’ rise to Sunday’s Intrust Super Cup grand final.
Smith had been in Brisbane for less than an hour in his new role as Norths Devils coach when he met with the man he hoped would lead his new team in 2018.
Ahearn was coming off a season at Redcliffe and wasn’t sure where he would play next season. But he wasn’t thinking about Norths.
“The Devils had struggled for a few years and I wasn’t thinking about going there,” Ahearn recalls.
“But then Ro met with me and outlined what he wanted to do with the club. I liked his vision and I liked the fact that he wanted me to be part of it.
“He had coached against me in the (NRL) Under 20s comp so he knew something about how I played. But I still wanted to go away and have a think about it.”
Fortunately for Devils fans, Ahearn agreed to move to Bishop Park.
So did Michael Sio soon after and the Devils had the two on-field leaders who would drive a club rebuild that has delivered them to a grand final against Wynnum Manly.
“It’s been a real journey over the last few years but we’ve got better every year to the point that this year we have been good enough to reach the grand final,” Ahearn said.
“We’ve had players come and go but we’ve always kept a group that has a strong culture that’s built around the team coming before any individuals at all times.
“Ro has built that culture and it’s been great to be a part of that.”
Ahearn has been outstanding this season, named the ISC halfback of the year while also polling highly in the fullback of the year voting.
He will wear the No.1 jersey on Sunday in a Devils spine including Connor Broadhurst, Tyrone Roberts and Danny Levi.
Broadhurst has a premiership – he was on the Burleigh team that defeated Ahearn’s Dolphins in 2016 – while Roberts and Levi have more than 250 combined games of NRL experience.
“They’re all calming influences and they just don’t get flustered,” Ahearn said.
“That will be important on Sunday because it will be physical against Wynnum.
“But our middles have been massive this season, particularly since we came back from the Covid lockdown.
“It should be a really good grand final. It’s a great opportunity.”
Photo: NRL Images