The Dolphins have struck a deal for historic Brisbane club the Norths Devils to join them as an affiliate from the 2024 season in a move that will open new grassroots pathways for the female game.
An initial four-year deal has been signed for the Devils to join the Central Queensland Capras and Redcliffe Dolphins as direct feeders to the Dolphins’ NRL program.
The Devils have produced countless NRL stars over the years through their previous development pathway club arrangement with the Melbourne Storm and their current affiliate, the Broncos.
The Devils are celebrating their 90th anniversary this season. Norths has won the last two Hostplus Cup premierships as the best team in Queensland’s statewide competition.
The affiliation will provide multiple benefits to the Dolphins and the Devils including:
A direct pathway for female players to progress through the Dolphins’ wide catchment area into a future NRLW team. Female players in the Brisbane North, Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast areas will be able to feed through to the Norths Devils - who play in the elite QRL competition, the BMD premiership - via the establishment of a new Dolphins NRLW Girls Academy. The Capras already have a team in the BMD Premiership, which would also feed to a Dolphins NRLW team.
A full-time Game Development Officer will be based at Norths’ home ground of Bishop Park in Nundah. They will be charged directly with building the game at grass roots level in the North Brisbane area, which has more than 5000 registered junior players and several local schools with rugby league excellence programs.
More young male players will be provided the chance to earn their shot at the NRL, with select Norths Devils Hostplus Cup players to be placed on pre-season train-and-trial agreements with the Dolphins.
The Dolphins will provide NRL players to the Devils during the Hostplus Cup season.
The move is an extension of an association that began in 1959 when the Dolphins prepared for their inaugural season in the Brisbane Rugby League competition by playing some clubs during their bye round. Clive Churchill was captain-coach of the first Devils team to meet the Dolphins.
Since then, some of the greatest names in Devils and Dolphins history have switched between the clubs. These include Kangaroos Mark Murray and Greg Conescu. Current Dolphins’ players Kodi Nikorima, Jarrod Wallace, Tom Gilbert and Sean O’Sullivan have played Queensland Cup or junior grades with the North Devils.
Dolphins’ chief executive Terry Reader said the program would strengthen the Dolphins’ link to their catchment area in North Brisbane.
“The Devils are a traditional club that have been playing in the Brisbane Rugby League club since its foundation year in 1933 and actually voted for the Dolphins to join the BRL back in 1960,” said Reader.
“To have them join us an affiliate is going to be a great thing for our club and the game in the North Brisbane area.
“It will allow the Dolphins to help build the game through junior clubs at grassroots level, and also give local players greater connection to our elite NRL and NRLW Dolphins Academy, where we are developing the NRL and NRLW players of the future.
“We already have a number of Norths junior players in our Academy program and this is a big step for the Dolphins to provide greater links between our club and the local community.”
Norths Devils chairman Michael Crutcher welcomed the deal between the clubs with the benefits that can flow for young female and male players and for junior clubs.
“We have valued our previous long-term affiliations with the Melbourne Storm (10 years) and the Brisbane Broncos (16 years) for the benefits they have brought to all parties and now is the right time for the Devils to begin a new partnership,” Crutcher said.
“This is an important time for grassroots rugby league in Brisbane. We are delighted to begin this partnership with the Dolphins with our shared commitment to developing the strongest foundations for the game on the northside.
“We value the combined history of our clubs. We have been rivals for more than 60 years but we have always shared the belief that the rivalry has made each club stronger.
“Our fans know that we will always be rivals in the Hostplus Cup – the huge crowd at last year’s grand final between Norths and Redcliffe proved that – but this partnership is about a shared vision for rugby league on the northside of Brisbane.”
The affiliation will begin on 1 November 2023.