Norths have received a huge boost as their Hostplus Cup finals campaign opens with Jack Ahearn announcing he will extend his Devils career into 2023.
Ahearn signed a new contract this week ahead of today’s qualifying final against minor premiers Burleigh Bears on the Gold Coast.
The new contract will put Ahearn on track to surpass 100 games for a club that he hadn’t given a thought to joining until Rohan Smith made his recruitment from Redcliffe his first priority when he agreed to coach Norths for the 2018 season.
It was a masterstroke for Devils fans as the club that hadn’t made a finals series for six years reeled off a stunning streak of 25 wins from 28 matches including last year’s grand final win over Wynnum Manly.
“Norths is a club I love,” Ahearn said.
“They’ve looked after me and my family during my time here and there is still heaps of belief and excitement in the squad.
“Norths have put a lot of faith and trust in me and I am humbled to be a part of this organisation and to lead it with a player of the calibre of Michael Sio.”
Ahearn and his co-captain Sio have been the front men in a full squad effort that has driven the Devils into the top four again this season.
Six players who featured in last year’s grand final have since graduated from the Devils to fulltime contracts including Ahearn’s great friend Jon Reuben.
Reuben became the oldest debutant in NRL history when he played for the Dragons against the Cowboys in front of his family and friends in Townsville.
Ahearn will continue to chase his NRL dream armed with his record as one of the Hostplus Cup’s best – he was named halfback of the year in 2021 while also polling highly in the fullback of the year voting.
“Jon’s family and I are so proud of him. He and I have been through so much together and for him to achieve that debut, up home in Townsville too, feels like we both achieved it,” Ahearn said
“I will be forever chasing the NRL dream whilst I am playing. I can only control what I can control and that is focused on playing and training well for Norths. If that dream ever becomes a reality, I am prepared.”
The Devils will take a four-game winning streak into today’s clash with Burleigh, closing out the regular season in style when finals berths were on the line.
That enabled the Devils to recover from a mid-season wobble, regaining players from injury to boost their premiership defence.
Burleigh inflicted two losses on the Devils during that mid-season run and Ahearn said the club was learning from those setbacks.
“This season has been a new challenge, adapting to the different changes that have arisen,” Ahearn said.
“But we have stuck to our processes, working hard at training. We are looking healthy as a squad at the right time.
“We did lose Ro (Smith to Leeds Rhinos) during the season but BK (Ben King) and Kev (Neighbour) have done a wonderful job, taking over from Ro.
“I can’t give them enough credit for how they’ve conducted and presented themselves and they have us ready to go.
“Burleigh have had our number by a big margin this year. They have had a tremendous year and play fantastic footy right across the park. For us, we need to learn from those losses to them and action them.
“It’s time to get down to business.”
Norths Devils career
Played 83 matches
Debut vs Tweed Heads 11/3/2018
7 field goals