A flyer, a machine, a try-scoring freak – these are words that are regularly used to sum up Hostplus Cup cult hero, Jon Reuben.
And the speed, precision and prowess that has helped Reuben earn these titles over the years will be back at Bishop Park this season, with the 2021 premiership winner returning to Norths Devils.
As the oldest NRL debutant at 29 years and 92 days, Reuben makes his comeback to Norths in 2023 after a year with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Plenty has changed since the winger was last at the club.
The Devils have another premiership trophy, there’s been turnover in the playing group, and they have moved through two new coaching combinations, with Kevin Neighbour and Ben King taking over last year when Rohan Smith went to the Super League and Dave Elliott now in charge for season 2023.
But for Reuben, it’s the same old club he loved the first time around.
“I just wanted to come back because of the culture that’s at Devils,” Reuben said of his return to Norths.
“It’s a good club. It’s very family orientated and I’m very close with my family, with all my mob from Townsville. That’s what this club brings, is family.
“Also playing with my captain, Jack Ahearn. Me and him have been together for ages, since under 20s (at Canberra Raiders) and he’s a brother now. We’re pretty close. It’s just good to be here.
“This club makes me want to play for the team, the squad… the culture and belief we have here, I can’t explain how good it is. It makes me play my football that I want to play.”
Such is Reuben’s love for the Devils that last year he made the trip back from Wollongong to watch his former teammates get the elusive back-to-back premiership victory at Redcliffe’s Kayo Stadium.
With his 2021 grand final win the highlight of his Norths career, he wanted to be there again to support the club, even if he was this time watching from the sidelines.
“I was just happy for them,” Reuben said.
“I knew if they made the top eight, they would have a chance of making the grand final. But for them to make the top four, I was like ‘they have a chance of winning it.’ I just knew.
“I was texting Jack saying, ‘you have already won it’. I knew they were going to do it again.
“I came to the game. I did a trip from Wollongong back up and I was at the game. I got some tickets and to see the boys do it again, it was good.
“I guess that’s why I wanted to come back because this club’s been so successful. Rohan did a good job with the club and Troy (Rovelli) our CEO.”
Jon Reuben is a try-scoring machine
Reuben has wasted no time in getting back to his best at Norths, scoring four tries in his first two trial matches.
He’s one of a number of key signings for the club, with Bryce Donovan and Bernard Gregorius returning while James Johnson, Sam Elliott and Will Toloi have also joined.
Another enticing factor for Reuben to make a comeback to Norths was the signing of Dave Elliott.
His new coach is certainly no stranger, with Elliott a former teacher of Reuben’s at Ignatius Park College in Townsville. They also worked together at the Blackhawks.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Reuben said of Elliott.
“He used to teach me back in school. He’s known me since grade eight… I think I’ve grown up a bit. I was a bit of a ratbag when I was in high school.
“First day when we got here, I was like, ‘mate, I must smell good if you keep following me'.
“He taught me all my high school years. That’s another reason why I wanted to come back, he’s a good coach.”
One thing that has changed for Reuben, however, is his standing in the playing group.
The 29-year-old made his NRL debut last June against the North Queensland Cowboys in his hometown of Townsville.
He describes the experience as a “dream come true” but as he nears 30, his time in NRL systems plus his lengthy Hostplus Cup career have seen him become a leader within the game.
“Sometimes I still think I’m the youngest bloke but I’m not,” he said.
“I honestly do forget how experienced I am and how much impression I can have. I do forget that I’m 30 this year. The younger players keep me young, I guess.
“But I guess coming back from NRL, it’s about passing my experience on to young fellas now and show them, don’t be too frantic, just do your job.
“I like to just go about my job. I make sure I’m doing my job, scoring tries. As long as I do my job and get the outside backs on the same page, I guess that’s what I’m bringing back. It’s my experience.”
Norths Devils 2023 gains and losses
Kyle Coghill (Wynnum Manly), Bryce Donovan (Redcliffe Dolphins), Sam Elliott (Redcliffe Dolphins), Bernard Gregorius (Brisbane Tigers), James Johnson (Newcastle Jersey Flegg), Harrison Muller (Tweed Seagulls), Jon Reuben (St George Illawarra Dragons), Will Toloi (Sunshine Coast Falcons)
Jayden Corrigan (Western Clydesdales), Rashaun Denny (Northern Pride), Jacob Gagan (Newtown), Brayden McGrady (Redcliffe Dolphins), Matthew Milson (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Javvier Pitovao (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Leivaha Pulu (Brisbane Tigers), Tyrone Roberts (Burleigh Bears), Michael Sio (New Zealand Warriors), Jerome Veve (Ipswich Jets)