The Norths Devils return to the field tomorrow night but one of the club’s most popular faces already has a head start on his teammates in the 2022 season.
Prop Ben Nakubuwai will wear a Norths jersey again when the Devils open their pre-season campaign against the Brisbane Tigers at Bishop Park.
Last weekend, Nakubuwai was in Broncos colours after being called into the NRL club to provide extra depth for their opening trial match of the season.
Nakubuwai played well, confirming the depth in the ranks of the Devils who have not played since their stirring grand final win last October.
Four of the 17 premiership Devils have since received full-time contracts – Michael Molo and Jon Reuben at the Dragons and Danny Levi and Nene Macdonald in England.
Nakubuwai, 25, wants to follow in their footsteps, returning to the fulltime roles he held when he made his NRL debut at the Gold Coast Titans and also in England.
That goal can take another huge step forward in 2022 after Nakubuwai enjoyed an impressive 2021 when he overcame setbacks to become an important part of the Devils’ premiership drive.
“I really enjoyed playing for the Broncos and I would love to get another opportunity with them,” Nakubuwai said.
“But I know I have to focus on what I can control. I want to play well with Norths and focus on being the best I can be every day. Hopefully everything else will take care of itself if I can do that.
“It will be good to wear the Devils jersey again this weekend.”
Nakubuwai has been busy this pre-season balancing his football commitments with his role on staff at Centenary State High School where his work includes assisting students with learning difficulties.
Nakubuwai is from Fijian football royalty – his father Pio represented his country in rugby union and league. Pio and wife Eseta moved to Australia and their three boys grew up in the New South Wales country town of Leeton.
Nakubuwai started playing soccer aged six and then followed his father into rugby union in Leeton. He only switched to league aged 14 to play with his mates and was soon signed to the Melbourne Storm system.
He will be among a host of Devils premiership winners who will play against the Tigers in an action-packed day at Bishop Park with five teams in action (Harvey Norman women’s Under 19s along with Cyril Connell Challenge Under 16s, Mal Meninga Cup Under 18s and Hastings Deering Colts Under 21s).
Devils coach Rohan Smith said he was looking forward to the start of a pre-season campaign that will continue with another home trial against Redcliffe on February 26 and a game against Sunshine Coast Falcons at Noosa on March 5.
“We’ll get to see some new players tomorrow night and also players who have been with us for a few seasons,” Smith said.
“It’s a good chance for combinations to develop and for everyone to get back into games.
“The pre-season has been a good chance for players to develop their skills and to get to know each other better.”
The Devils open their premiership campaign on March 20 with a clash with the Blackhawks in Townsville.