2013 Cyril Connell Cup Champions - Norths Devils

A NEW coach and leadership group will steer the Norths Devils when the defending Cyril Connell Cup champions open their 2014 campaign against Ipswich on Saturday.

The Devils blitzed Easts Tigers 44-6 in last year’s Connell Cup final before narrowly missing out on lifting the national championship trophy following a two-point loss to the Parramatta Eels.

While the ultimate prize eluded them, the season was a huge success for coach Craig Grauf and his talented team.

Grauf will this year coach the Devils’ Mal Meninga Cup team with the majority of players moving up into the Under 18 competition alongside him.

Craig Kennedy returns to guide the Bishop Park club’s Under 16 team and he couldn’t be happier with their progress heading into the new season.

“It’s a completely different squad to last year, but the boys have trained really hard,” Kennedy said.

“As far as I’m concerned, they’ve ticked every box. They’ve just worked their tails off during the summer. They’re fit and as ready as they can be.”

The new-look Devils squad, which started training last November, is loaded with “rugby league pedigree”.

Kennedy will this week announce a captain from the leadership group of Joe McGuire, Jackson Frei, David Fauid and Harry Sullivan.

McGuire is a younger brother of Broncos enforcer Josh, while Frei and Fauid each have an older sibling who has impressed in the Intrust Super Cup in recent times.

Kennedy said it was important for the Devils to hit the ground running with a strong first up performance at the North Ipswich Reserve on Saturday.

“We had them (Ipswich) in a trial a few weeks ago, but you can’t read too much into trials,” he said.

“We showed in both of our trials that we were fit. We’re going there expecting a quality opposition.”

In the other Round 1 (Pool A) Connell Cup games, Wynnum Manly plays Gold Coast White, Gold Coast Green meets the Easts Tigers and the Redcliffe Dolphins are at home to Souths Logan.

Pool B will feature three matches spread throughout central/north Queensland. Northern Pride launch their season against the Sunshine Coast, Mackay Cutters play the Central Crows and the CQ Capras clash with the Toowoomba Clydesdales.

In the Mal Meninga Cup, 2013 champions the Redcliffe Dolphins launch their title defence against Souths Logan at Dolphin Oval.

The Dolphins were impressive 44-16 winners over Gold Coast White in last year’s state final at Langlands Park.

The victory cemented Redcliffe’s berth in the national final against the Balmain Tigers, who took top honours with a hard-fought 24-12 victory.

Tony Vidler will coach this year’s Dolphins Meninga Cup team, replacing Ben Jones.