Jack Ahearn is calling time on one of the most influential careers in Norths Devils history.
The club captain has announced that Saturday’s home clash with PNG Hunters will be his last before retirement.
“It’s been a big decision for me because I know I still have several years of footy left but this is the right time for me and my family,” Ahearn said.
“I’ll miss a lot of things about footy but I’m just grateful for everything that the game has given to me.”
Ahearn, 30, is training to be a firefighter and he will begin his new career in November, restricting the time that he can devote to football alongside his family commitments with wife Brianna, son Kyrie and daughter Zariah.
Ahearn told his coaches and teammates in June that this would be his last season but he kept the decision under wraps. He was desperate to play in another finals series but the Devils’ hopes ended with last Saturday’s loss to Sunshine Coast Falcons.
Devils fans are encouraged to get to Bishop Park on Saturday to farewell a player whose presence has been enormous in Devils history.
He was the first player signed by then coach Rohan Smith in late 2017 for a rebuild that has yielded remarkable dividends at the club.
Ahearn led the Devils to premierships in 2021 and 2022.
He was the competition’s halfback of the year in 2021, when he also finished in the top three for voting for the fullback of the year.
He has been named the Devils player of the year for each of his four years at Bishop Park, equalling the club record.
Ahearn has played more than 100 games for the Devils in a Hostplus Cup career that has yielded more than 150 appearances for Norths, Souths Logan and Redcliffe.
“Jack has so many achievements in his time at Norths but his most important has been the standards he has set as a person,” Devils CEO Troy Rovelli said.
“He’s simply one of the finest people in rugby league. He’s dedicated, principled, motivated and he’s very fair. He also happens to be one of the best players in the Queensland Cup since its inception.
“He’ll be missed at the Devils but we will honour Jack by maintaining the standards that he has set here in conjunction with the likes of his premiership co-captain Michael Sio and other leaders in our club.
“We want Jack to stay involved in some capacity at Norths so we’ll be talking to him about opportunities in the future.”
Devils coach Dave Elliott praised Ahearn’s impact on the club and the competition.
“Jack is such an important figure in this competition because he’s been a top player for so many years and he’s been the captain in back-to-back premierships,” Elliott said.
“He’ll be missed across the board because the competition has been so much better because of players like Jack. It’s been a privilege to work with him.”
The only mystery of Ahearn’s career is how he wasn’t chosen to play NRL.
He was a member of the Junior Kangaroos and named in the NRL Under 20 team of the year in 2013.
In 2021, he led a team of pure Devils-contracted players to beat Wynnum Manly, with six Broncos players including Origin player Selwyn Cobbo, in the grand final.
“That just didn’t come my way but I know that there are a lot of things in your career that are outside of your control so I accept that,” Ahearn said.
“I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and there are a lot of people who I want to thank in the week ahead, not the least my family.
“This club has had a lot of belief in me and my time at the Devils will always be the most significant in my career.
“I’m grateful to have played with so many great people and I hope that I’ve made a positive impact at a club that is proudly 90 years old.”
Ahearn joked that he would “be sore for at least two weeks” after Saturday’s game because of the physical nature of clashes with the PNG Hunters.
“I’m not too emotional about it yet but I’m sure it will dawn on me soon,” he said.
“I’m just keen to get through the week well and to finish the season with our best performance as a team.”