Four Norths Devils will wear Brisbane Broncos jerseys on Saturday as the NRL club opens its pre-season campaign with a trial match against Wynnum Manly at Kougari Oval.
Devils’ dual premiership winners Jack Ahearn and Liam Horne will be joined by Norths’ 2023 recruits Jayden Morgan and James Johnson in the Broncos’ 19-man squad.
And they will have familiar faces in a Broncos team dominated by the Hostplus Cup frontline players who have been training with the club since November as part of pre-season contracts. Players from the Norths, Wynnum and Souths Logan feature through the clubs’ affiliation agreements with the Broncos.
Devils 2022 premiership winner Brendan Piakura will start in the forward pack alongside Ben Te Kura, a Devils junior representative standout who made his Hostplus Cup debut last season. Both have Broncos contracts.
Devils fans will also note Brendan Frei’s name in the squad but the beloved former Devil has signed with Wynnum Manly for the 2023 season as per his pre-season contract with the Broncos.
Ahearn has revelled in a full NRL pre-season, his first since he spent two years in the Canberra Raiders’ fulltime NRL squad.
It’s been just reward for Ahearn’s outstanding performances with the Devils, netting him four consecutive club player-of-the-year awards and widespread recognition as one of the most accomplished players in modern Cup history.
“It’s been really enjoyable to wear the Broncos gear and to come into such a famous club,” Ahearn said.
“It’s hard not to be impressed because it’s a very professional set-up and it’s good to see so many familiar faces through our affiliate agreement between our clubs.
“The best part of training full-time is the chance for the body to recover properly between sessions. It’s been hot the last few weeks but that extra time to recover is handy.”
Ahearn will start in the halves this weekend alongside Wynnum recruit Josh Rogers, who played with Burleigh last season.
Horne, a Devils favourite and PNG Kumuls forward, will wear the No.14 jersey as he continues his elevation in senior football.
“Horney has done really well in the pre-season and he continues to make a lot of progress,” Ahearn said.
“We have seen his value to the Devils in recent seasons and he’s taken a lot of benefit from full-time training since November.”
Morgan has yet to train with the Devils but he will arrive at Bishop Park next week after signing from the Mackay Cutters last season.
The strong middle forward has joined coach Dave Elliott in transferring from the Cutters to the Devils.
“Jayden was really good for the Cutters last year and he was really the spearhead of the pack,” Elliott said.
“He takes the ball to the line and he also has good hands so he brings the versatility that will fit in well at Norths.
“We’re really looking forward to getting him to the Devils knowing how much he will have taken from training with the Broncos.”
Johnson is a young outside back who will be a welcome addition to the Devils’ backline stocks when he trains with the club for the first time next week. Johnson has come to the Devils from Newcastle.
“I’ve really enjoyed training with James,” Ahearn said.
“He’s an aggressive outside back and I’m looking forward to seeing him running with the ball.”