Norths hope their growing finals experience will serve them well against Sunshine Coast Falcons when the two in-form teams clash in tomorrow’s Hostplus Cup preliminary final at Bishop Park.
The Devils go into the grand final qualifier with five consecutive wins while the Falcons have won all but one of their last six matches.
This will be the first time the teams have met in a finals match as the Devils line-up in search of a fifth consecutive finals win.
The premiers won all three finals last year, including the stirring grand final over Wynnum Manly, and the streak extended with a qualifying final win over minor premiers Burleigh Bears two weeks ago.
But the Devils have had to fight. In three of those four finals wins, they did not have the lead in the last 10 minutes of matches.
The Devils’ cool heads counted for plenty against Burleigh two weeks ago as the visitors held the lead for only a combined four minutes of the match, but they were in front when it mattered most.
“We’re fortunate to have some experienced players in our team and they have been involved in plenty of finals matches over their careers,” Devils co-coach Kevin Neighbour said.
“We know we’re up against a very good team tomorrow. The Falcons have been among the frontrunners all season and they showed how good they are by coming back from a 24-point deficit last week.
“We know we’re in for a tough match. Our players are excited at the opportunity and we know we’ll have to play well.”
The Devils will tweak their backline tomorrow with Broncos back Tyson Gamble named for the match, joining a strong back seven including co-captain Jack Ahearn and Tyrone Roberts.
The forward pack will include former NRL hooker Kierran Moseley at No.9 while PNG utility Liam Horne will be a valuable addition from the bench.
The premiers are looking forward to returning to Bishop Park, where they have played only one of their last four finals.
“We’re looking forward to a good home crowd tomorrow and our players love playing in front of that crowd,” Neighbour said.
“We play footy to reach this time of year and to play against the best teams.
“The top four teams from the season have made the preliminary finals so it’s a good time for the competition.”
HOSTPLUS CUP PRELIMINARY FINAL: Norths Devils vs Sunshine Coast Falcons, Bishop Park, Saturday 17 September, 1pm.