With the final act of his decorated career, Jack Ahearn kicked a penalty goal to seal Norths Devils’ 40-30 win over PNG Hunters at Bishop Park.
It was only the second goal of a career that will go down as one of the greatest in Devils’ history.
It was fitting that Ahearn should finish one of the most entertaining matches this season as he heads into retirement as the captain of the Devils’ back-to-back premiership teams of the last two seasons.
Ahearn’s career didn’t finish with a finals appearance but it ended with a strong home crowd willing him on to a win.
Ahearn’s defence counted early when he helped to hold up the Hunters over the line in front of a boisterous crowd in the can bar.
And his teammates dug deep for him after the Hunters scored to lead 30-26 with 18 minutes remaining.
Six minutes later, winger Manase Kaho produced a crowd-pleaser when he weaved through the Hunters’ defence to score beneath the posts to put the Devils ahead for good.
Premiership prop Jayden Stephens sealed the match in the 76th minute when he surged through the Hunters’ middle for another try for the loud supporters on the hill.
Ahearn was chaired off the field and then stood for a haka from his proud teammates saluting a fine career.
“It was nice to finish with that win particularly against a Hunters team that really gave its all out there and played well,” Ahearn said.
“I’m grateful for the career that I’ve been able to have and the support that I received from so many people.”
The Devils finished with eight wins, two draws and 10 losses from a season that was impacted after 10 of Norths’ 17-man grand final squad from last year moved from the pathway club to fulltime opportunities.
New coach Dave Elliott still moulded a team that was unbeaten against four of the top eight teams.
And the Devils played most of the season without any players from their NRL affiliation after the Broncos withdrew their allocated players in response to Norths’ decision to sign with the Dolphins for the next four years.
But the Devils struggled for the consistency to reach the finals.
“We’ll learn a lot from this season and we’ll come back ready to go again,” Elliott said.
“We owe it to players like Jack to continue the standards that he has helped set at this club.
“It was pleasing to finish with a win against a Hunters team that tests everyone it plays against.”
The Hunters opened the scoring in the second minute before Ahearn had a hand in Moses Noovao-McGreal’s try for Norths in the 12th minute.
The first of Kaho’s two tries in the 29th minute became an eight-point try that pushed the Devils ahead as Bryce Donovan kicked all seven attempts at goal.
Comeback centre Jacob Gagan scored in the 36th minute to take Norths to a 20-14 halftime lead.
The Hunters scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half before the Devils hit back when forward Justin Makirere crashed over.
NORTHS DEVILS 40 (Manase Kaho 2, Moses Noovao-McGreal, Jacob Gagan, Justin Makirere Jayden Stephens tries, Bryce Donovan 7 goals, Jack Ahearn goal) bt PNG HUNTERS 30 (Junior Rop, Jamie Mavoko, Sakias Komato, Judah Rimbu, Siki Konden tries, Mavoko 5 goals) at Bishop Park