Devils and Pride to face off in top of the table clash

Norths Devils' Hastings Deering Colts side is looking to knock the unbeaten Northern Pride off their mantle in this week's top of the table clash at Emerson Park.

Pride lead the Devils on the ladder, having won six from six games this season; Devils have won five and drawn once. 

Devils coach Kevin Neighbour said his side - a very different one to the one that won the competition last year - was focused on getting the two points. 

"We're just focused on what we can do and preparing as best as we can, which is fairly cliche, but for kids you need that consistency," Neighbour said. 

"I believe it should be a pretty good game... we've not been playing as well as we've wished to, but we're definitely building and we're heading in the right direction. 

"Obviously Pride are top and they've made that known, so we're expecting a very tough game. 

"It'd be good if we got the two points - that's the most important thing.

"We've got a few things we'll work on this week, which we need to improve on - some areas where we feel we can take advantage of some deficiencies that we've seen."

Neighbour said so far this season he had been most impressed with Dylan Quinn, who joined the team this year after playing for Western Mustangs last year. 

"He has been sensational for us," Neighbour said.

"He's a very quiet, honest kid... he has found it different adjusting to the way we do things, but he's started to excel. I'm really happy with how Dylan has progressed and settled in Brisbane.

"We've also got Jack Paterson, who is starting to come into some form - our centre, who is also at the Broncos. It's good to see Jack playing more consistently.

"Jack should be improving every week.... I think if he can keep this form going, then he should be able to show off the promise we know he has."

Neighbour said his focus for the year was to formulate a squad of "young, hungry kids who will be at Norths for a long time". 

Norths Devils' Zak McGuire in action. Photo: QRL Media
Norths Devils' Zak McGuire in action. Photo: QRL Media

"That's what we try to do every year... last year was good, but that was then and this is now," Neighbour said.

"It's a case of getting the young kids up-skilled to where we want them to be in order for them to possibly get chances to play Intrust Super Cup or BRL."

Neighbour said finals was "far too far down the track" to speculate how his side would go this year, but "we'll do as best we can every game and if that ends up with us in the semis and in the mix come then end, then that's great". 

Pride coach Dave Scott said the Round 8 game would be Pride's biggest test, as Norths - "the favourites" - were reigning premiers and had strong systems in place to develop players. 

"We're going up against a very good side... it's a good test to see where we're at as a team," Scott said. 

"If we match it with these fellas, it'll showcase that we're warranted to be up the top."

Scott said winning six from six games was a massive achievement for his squad, which was "exceeding expectations at the moment". 

"Fair credit to them. It's an achievement for the squad, which doesn't really get any input from the NRL teams at the moment," Scott said. 

"It's tough to maintain any winning streak in any sport - there's a lot of factors involved.

"I'm confident in our boys putting on a good performance. I think we need to get down there, put in a good performance against the reigning premiers and see where we stand in the comp."

Scott said so far this season he had been very impressed with Pride lock Ewan Moore, fullback Brandon Jackonia and Tom McGrath, as well as Beau Berg, so far this season. 

"Beau Berg has had probably the best development I've seen in a player in all my time coaching and playing in England and Australia," Scott said.

"From where he has come from 18 months ago when he first came into the system... he was a boy who scraped in, was going to quit at one point because he didn't think he was up to it, to now being one of my key players - not just as a player on the field, but as a personality off it. 

"I'm really happy with him and how he's come along... he's really added to the squad. His development has been outstanding."

Scott said the main focus for Pride moving forward was to apply what they had been working on at training, on the field.

"We know most teams we come up against, we're not going to match them with size, so we look to utilise our strengths to exploit other team's weaknesses, so we've been looking at where we can do that," Scott said. 

"We're not doing anything different from what anyone else is doing, but what we do do has to be better than what other people do.

"Understanding, executing and being clinical - that's what we're doing.

"I'm confident in my players going out there and applying themselves, to each give 100 per cent."

Scott said winning was excellent, but he measured his success on the development of the players under him. 

"Success objectively over the season is getting the boys up there to play Cup, but subjectively week by week  - yes, we want to win," Scott said. 

"Week in, week out we want to win, but when we sit back at the end of the season, what have we achieved for these boys?"

Scott said he needed to enhance players' skills, technique, commitment, application to progress through the grades and hopefully to the NRL at one point.

"Like Beau Berg - case in point... I've really enjoyed watching his development and seeing him come along as a player," Scott said. 

"We're a development pathway... I've got four boys from last year who have made their Cup debuts this year."

The Burleigh Bears' Hastings Deering Colts side and Western Mustangs will clash first in Round 8 on Anzac Day; Bears have won four from six and Mustangs are yet to get two points on the board. 

Easts Tigers and Redcliffe Dolphins will play at Langlands Park on Saturday.

Townsville Blackhawks and CQ Capras will play at Jack Manski Oval.

Sunshine Coast Falcons will clash with Mackay Cutters at Sunshine Coast Stadium.  

Tweed Seagulls will face Ipswich Jets on Sunday. 

Souths Logan Magpies will take on Wynnum Manly Seagulls on Sunday, closing out Round 8.