Kevin Neighbour and Ben King have been appointed as Norths Devils co-coaches for the remainder of the Hostplus Cup season.
The pair have been Rohan Smith’s assistant coaches at the Devils for the past two seasons, continuing a combined coaching career across all levels of football of more than three decades.
Neighbour and King were enjoying this year’s role as assistants, but Smith’s recruitment to Leeds Rhinos opened the door for their elevation to a position that has belonged to the likes of Bob Bax, Clive Churchill, Graham Lowe and Mark Murray.
They will guide the Devils to their next clash with the PNG Hunters in Toowoomba on May 7 and then beyond.
“We couldn’t think of a better appointment than Kev and BK, who will be excellent replacements for Rohan,” Devils CEO Troy Rovelli said.
“They know our players and our Devils style of football. They have tremendous experience in coaching and they have well and truly earned this appointment.
“We’re pleased that they have agreed to take over this role and we look forward to watching them follow on from Rohan.”
Neighbour and King’s long apprenticeships crossed paths in 2019 when they coached against each other. Neighbour was guiding the Devils Colts team against King’s Easts Tigers Colts.
They have been by each other’s sides since November 2020 when they became Smith’s assistants for a season that ended with a stirring grand final victory for the Devils.
That broke a drought for King – he had been an assistant coach at the Sunshine Coast Falcons and Easts Tigers across six seasons, reaching three grand finals without tasting success.
King, who lives on the Gold Coast with wife Andrea and their two sons, also has another coaching role with the Mudgeeraba Redbacks under 8 team including his son.
“It’s a privilege to join Kev in coaching a club with the history of the Devils,” King said.
“I’ve been coaching at different levels for 22 years so I’ve learned a lot in that time and continue to learn.
“We’ve got a great playing group here who play for each other. I know Kev will give this job everything he has and I know I will give it absolutely everything I’ve got and we’re fortunate to have a great coaching staff around us.”
Neighbour played in the second-tier competition in his native United Kingdom before beginning a coaching career that had stops in New Zealand, Coffs Harbour, Tweed Heads and then Norths Devils.
In 2018, Neighbour was the coach of Norths’ Colts premiership team that included the likes of future NRL players Jordan Riki, Kobe Hetherington, Ethan Bullemor and Cory Paix. He coached the Colts again in 2019 before moving into the assistant role with Smith in 2020.
Neighbour’s Australian partner Kelly Nelson has been alongside him through most of a coaching journey that has been rewarded with the new appointment.
“I grew up overseas but I’ve never felt so at home in another place than I have at the Devils coaching with Rohan, BK and others,” Neighbour said.
“In terms of this team, we’re not going to change anything. We’re going to keep pushing forwards and playing that Devils style of football that our supporters have become used to in recent years.”
The Devils had the bye last weekend. This weekend, they will clash with the Hunters, which will be followed by home games against Central Queensland Capras on May 14 and Brisbane Tigers on May 22.