Although they fell agonisingly short of completing the perfect season in the Mal Meninga Cup, Norths have continued their strong form in the elite junior pathways as they sit firmly entrenched in the top four of the Hastings Deering Colts competition.
The Devils have produced an impressive first half of the season with their only two defeats coming against fellow title contenders Townsville and Victoria.
But their strong start to the season extends well beyond the parameters of the playing field, with Norths coach Kevin Neighbour handed the task of rebuilding his squad when they assembled for pre-season in November.
Despite the number of new faces to the club, Neighbour believed the impact of his coaching staff has been integral in transforming his squad into a genuine premiership threat.
“I’m very happy with how the kids have gone since we got together in November … we’ve had a lot of new kids come to the squad and I’ve got fantastic staff who put a lot of time and effort into those newer kids, so a lot of credit must go to them,” Neighbour said.
Their 32-6 win over Ipswich last Saturday highlighted the strength in their junior ranks, with six members of their Mal Meninga Cup side making their Colts debut.
Amongst the debutants were Meninga skipper Cory Paix, Ethan Bullemor and Jack Paterson who were all named for the Queensland Under 18 side to play before the first State of Origin game at the MCG on June 6.
All three performed impressively on the weekend and their coach said their exposure to the Hastings Deering Colts competition would provide them with an excellent opportunity to further their football moving forward.
“I was really happy with what they did on the weekend … They’ve settled in quite quickly and like I said to the other Mal Meninga boys, it becomes a case of there being a lot of opportunity for places but it’s up to them to take the step forward,” he said.
Despite their recent injection of youth, Neighbour praised the efforts of his senior players and the role they have played not only in the Devils early season form, but also their mentorship of the newer players in the squad.
“Joseph McGuire has been very consistent along with Jack Peoples and they bring a lot of leadership and enthusiasm our group,” he said.
With Rohan Smith taking the helm at Intrust Super Cup level in 2018, Norths appear to have placed an increased emphasis upon developing their own talent through their elite pathways systems.
Neighbour echoed this sentiment and spoke highly of the opportunities provided to his young players to advance their football at the club, with regular Colts fullback David Fauid highlighting the opportunities on offer as he played Intrust Super Cup on the weekend.
“We want to start pushing players to get regular games in BRL and Intrust Super Cup and we had David Fauid play (Intrust Super) Cup on the weekend and we were all really happy about that,” he said.
Round 11 Highlights: U20 Hastings Deering Colts
As for their finals aspirations, Neighbour believes that their emphasis on player development will be rewarded as the depth at the club will afford them the chance to blood their best young talent at higher levels.
“It’s just a matter of keeping that production line going and the ladder will take care of itself in the end.”
The Devils take on the Northern Pride in an enthralling top four showdown this Saturday at Barlow Park at 4pm.