Devils set for hell of a battle

By VINCE HABERMANN

NORTHS Devils chief executive officer Mark Murray admits their Wizard Queensland Cup show-down with Central Comets at Bundaberg's Salter Oval is a "must win'' game.

Murray, a former Queensland State of Origin great and coach, said it was vital they improved on their two wins from nine starts.

"We've been Melbourne Storm's feeder club since 1998 and, since then, we've missed the top five just once in those nine years,'' Murray said.

"Taking a line through that, we are fairly poorly situated at the moment, but we have had a lot of injuries and supplied a lot of players to the Storm because of their injuries and also suspensions.

"Guys like Jeremy Smith and Nathan Friend have got a lot of NRL football.

"They were mostly with us last year and only got an odd game up.

"That is great for those players, but it leaves us a bit short on playing staff on top of what we anticipated at the start of the year.''

Murray said the team's preparation had also been disrupted with exciting centres Will Chambers and Jackson Nicolau playing for Queensland in the under-19 curtain raiser to the State of Origin match in Sydney on Wednesday night and Devils coach Wayne Treleaven also at the helm of the young Maroons.

"The team which we have named is also open to change because of our relationship with the Storm,'' he said.

"The number of Origin players may also affect them, which also affects us.

"But hopefully we should get the assistance of four full-time Melbourne squad players - full-back Smith Samau, who played for the Storm last week, five-eighth James Aubusson and front rowers Scott Anderson and Adam Blair, and hopefully the two under-19s stay injury free and can also play.

"James has been out for a few weeks with a neck injury, while Scott had a relatively late start to the season. It will be his fourth game back from a stress fracture to his back.''

The match will be a home-coming for their young Bundaberg born and bred second rower Troy Hansen (pictured on front of liftout) and Murray also expects a big match from him.

"Troy is in his fourth year with the club and he is a tremendous competitor,'' Murray said.

"You always know what you've going to get from him - always 100% - and he is pushing for more cup footy, and it's all part of his progression,'' he said.

But Murray is wary of the Comets, who are eyeing a hat-trick of wins.

"In recent seasons, they've been always hard to beat, particularly in Rocky on a Saturday night,'' he said.

"They're a big side and they play their best at night and Bundy will be a bit like that and it will suit their style of play, and I anticipate a very tough game,'' he said.

Kick-off will be at 6.30pm.



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