Jacob Gagan was back for Norths last weekend like he’d never been away, scoring a try in his first game for the Devils in almost 12 months.
The last time Gagan played for the Devils in Brisbane, he scored the opening try of the 2022 Hostplus Cup grand final in a man-of-the-match performance.
Plenty has happened for Gagan between appearances for the Devils.
At the start of this year, Gagan and fiancée Rachel decided to return to Sydney with their children Chase, 4, and Zara, 1, for new opportunities.
That led Gagan to Newtown, where he continued a career that has so far featured NRL appearances with South Sydney, Cronulla and Newcastle.
But a torn pectoral muscle threatened to end Gagan’s season early.
On a visit back to Brisbane, Gagan and Rachel decided it was time to return with his longtime employer and Devils sponsor Altus Traffic finding a senior position for the likeable centre.
That enabled Gagan, 30, to re-sign with the Devils for 2023 and 2024 and he made a relatively quick recovery from injury to earn selection in the last two matches of the season.
He marked PNG centre Justin Olam in last Saturday’s clash with the Sunshine Coast Falcons and this week he will take on the PNG Hunters in the season finale at Bishop Park.
“I came back here and it really felt like I was back home,” Gagan said.
“We’ve always enjoyed being a part of the Devils and it’s been great to get back to the club.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to get to the finals this year but we know we’ve got plenty to look forward to next season.”
Gagan’s two previous seasons with the Devils have ended with premierships.
He had originally signed for the 2020 season only for the Covid pandemic to change those plans. Gagan diverted to France and eventually arrived at Bishop Park midway through the 2021 season, spending two weeks in Covid quarantine to ensure he could qualify for the finals.
Gagan’s defence was superb for the Devils in the two premiership seasons and he was again working hard last weekend as he battled Olam while he also reached out to shut down Falcons’ NRL fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen when he was about to make a break.
“It was just good to get back out there because I did think I wouldn’t play again this season after I was hurt,” Gagan said.
“But I wanted to get back in time to play again with (Devils captain) Jack Ahearn. I knew he was going to retire and I just wanted the chance to play again with him before that.
“He’s such a good player and leader. We want to win for him this weekend.”
Saturday marks Ahearn’s final match before retirement, ending one of the greatest careers in almost three decades of the Queensland Cup.
Ahearn, who is one month older than Gagan, will become a firefighter in November and has put his family and career first.
Ahearn will finish without playing an NRL match and Gagan has no doubt he should have played at that level.
“It’s hard to understand why because he’s just been such a good player for so long,” Gagan said.
“He’s been a standout in this competition and there is no doubt that he would have made a real impression in the NRL but sometimes it’s hard to work out why clubs don’t pick particular players.
“He still has several good years ahead of him on the field so he’s going to leave in really good form.
“I’m just grateful for the chance to have played with him. I know how good Jack is on and off the field and he deserves a win this weekend.”