Category: News

Devils claim Colts premiership

Norths Devils Colts delivered the club’s first premiership in seven years with a stirring grand final triumph over Townsville Blackhawks at Suncorp Stadium today.

The Devils built their win on a remarkable defensive effort, absorbing wave after wave of Blackhawks’ attacking raids in the second half of the 20-16 win.

It was the Devils’ first premiership on grand final day since the 2011 Colts victory and added to the Club Championship awarded earlier this month.

Coach Kevin Neighbour had one overriding instruction on the white board in the Devils change room: “One team. One Badge. One Dream.”

Neighbour said he knew the Devils would need the slogan even after they surged to a 16-0 lead after 24 minutes.

Life was good for the Devils when player-of-the-match Nesta Watene slipped a superb offload to Liam Horne for a classy try.

But this game was never going to be easy.

The Blackhawks raced in two tries before halftime and then battered the Devils’ line early in the second half with repeat sets and three consecutive penalties.

The Devils’ desperation was typified by Jordan Riki’s 48th minute tryline tackle that blunted another golden chance for the Blackhawks and handed a changeover to Norths.

“This was always going to be a hard game,” Neighbour said.

“Townsville are a very good team and, even when we led 16-0, we knew 16 points was never going to be enough.

“They were going to get their time with the ball and we would have to defend.”

Colts games aren’t always known for their brick-wall defence but the Devils found the motivation to repel Townsville.

Some of that stemmed from some grand final heartbreak. Three of the players, including co-captains Kobe Hetherington and Joseph McGuire, were part of the team that lost the Colts grand final to Redcliffe last year.

Seven of the players had experienced a gutting two-point loss in the Under 18 grand final in May.

But the Devils would not be disappointed today.

They began to claw back in the 60th minute when Gerome Burns had the ball on remote control, kicking into the corner and forcing a Blackhawks dropout in a decisive momentum change.

Four minutes later, the Devils sealed the match when David Fauid breezed past a beaten Townsville defence to score towards the right corner.

The Blackhawks crossed with 10 seconds remaining – there may never have been a try at Suncorp Stadium when the referee’s whistle for a try was greeted with such joy by the defending team.

“Our guys just kept turning up for each other,” Neighbour said.

“We wrote on the white board: stay connected, stay patient and control the things you can control.

“Our guys drew on their experience and their determination today. They wanted to win that.”

The Devils had started brilliantly, with McGuire crossing in the ninth minute after the Blackhawks had conceded a penalty.

Between the 11th and 14th minutes, Norths defended two consecutive sets on their line in an early sign of their mettle.

And Watene then scooped up another pinpoint kick from Burns for a 16th minute try.

As the Devils celebrated in a deafening dressing room, wearing newly printed “Premiers” T-shirts, Neighbour quietly went back to the whiteboard.

“GF done,” he wrote.

GAME NOTES:

  • The Devils’ last Colts premiership in 2011 included Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima
  • Tensions flared in the 45th minute when play was briefly stopped after push-and-shove from both teams
  • The Devils won the penalty count 8-7 but the Blackhawks received three consecutive penalties (44th, 45th and 47th minute) that tested Norths
  • In the 67th minute, Devils winger Fruean Easthope saved a try when he bundled the Blackhawks into touch
  • Liam Horne played very well at centre, moving from the forward pack after Elliott Vincent was ruled out yesterday with injury

Desperate tackle drives young Devils

A desperate act of defence that cost a young forward a finals campaign has helped drive Norths Devils towards tomorrow’s Hastings Deering Colts decider against Townsville Blackhawks at Suncorp Stadium.

Jacob Chambers will watch from the stands, nursing the broken arm suffered in the Devils’ comprehensive win against the Cutters in Mackay last month.

That was a significant night in the Devils’ season – the fifth win of an eight-match streak that heads into tomorrow’s grand final.

“Jacob broke his arm trying to stop a try – it was a desperate tackle and that didn’t go unnoticed by our players,” Devils coach Kevin Neighbour said.

“That was an example of what was needed to win games at this time of the year.”

While Chambers was taken to Mackay Hospital for treatment, his teammates finished off the Cutters in a win that ensured the Devils would finish among the top teams.

“The lads stayed back in the dressing room that night and really enjoyed each other’s company. It was a sign that they were starting to gel and starting to understand that they could go a long way this season,” Neighbour said.

“If they could get into a grand final, then anything could happen.

“That night in Mackay was for significant for us – it was just a shame that Jake is one of a few of our players who can’t play (in the grand final) because of injury.”

After the Mackay match, the young Devils had to fight hard in their final regular-season match to defeat Sunshine Coast 29-28. Two weeks ago, they muscled up against the Blackhawks in a polished major semi-final victory.

That gave the Devils a week off into the grand final, meaning tomorrow’s clash will be their second in four weeks.

“That’s not a problem for us,” Neighbour said.

“It’s been a long year for some of these lads so the chance to have a week off last weekend was important for us.”

Tomorrow’s squad includes three players from the Devils’ colts team that fell to Redcliffe in last year’s grand final.

The squad will also include up to seven players from the Mal Meninga Cup team that lost to Souths in a gripping Under 18 grand final in May.

“Our lads have learned a lot this season and they’re ready for this game,” Neighbour said.

“They have earned the right to be there and they’re waiting for the challenge.”

United Devils ready for Colts decider

A “one club” feeling has driven the Norths Devils within reach of a Colts premiership on Sunday that would round out a fine rebuilding year at Bishop Park.

The Devils will meet the Townsville Blackhawks in the Hastings Deering Colts decider at Suncorp Stadium with players who have taken different journeys in 2018.

The Under 20 grand final squad includes three players who reached Intrust Super Cup level this season, seven who played in the Under 18 grand final and several who featured in the open-age Brisbane Rugby League.

The spread of talent was a key factor in the Devils’ club championship victory this season – Norths’ first championship since 2010.

“This has really been a whole club approach this year – our players love being part of Norths Devils, not just the Colts,” coach Kevin Neighbour said.

“(Intrust Super Cup coach) Rohan Smith really brought that approach to the club this year. Our players can interact with players across the grades and know that they’re a part of one club.

“They have loved being part of that and that’s been one of the reasons we’ve been able to reach this grand final.”

Neighbour will settle on his final 17-man squad this weekend after using 39 players throughout the season. That’s the same number used by Smith for his first Intrust Super Cup season as the Devils overhauled the playing and coaching staff in 2018.

The Devils go into the grand final off a week’s rest after toppling the Blackhawks 18-14 in the major semi-final in Townsville two weeks ago.

The Blackhawks set up a rematch this Sunday after pegging back the Northern Pride in last weekend’s qualifying final.

The Devils and Blackhawks were the best teams in the regular season, each winning 15 of their 20 matches but Townsville’s sole draw gave them the minor premiership.

The teams met only once in the regular season – the Blackhawks defeated Norths 46-6 in Townsville in round 7.

“That game was a reminder for us of how good this competition is,” Neighbour said.

“This Colts comp is a step-up from some of the age-restricted competitions that our lads had played in. That game helped us a lot.

“Townsville is a good team. They have a strong forward pack and they’re a team that can get away good offloads. They will have a lot of talent on the park.

“But are lads are ready for the challenge. They’ve worked hard this season and they’re ready for Sunday.”