They say a prophet is seldom acknowledged in his own land and this could not be truer in the case of Australian Rugby League phenomenon, Andrew Johns.
Johns is widely recognised as the greatest player (and playmaker) the 13-man game has ever seen. In a career spanning a decade, he achieved feats that are unlikely to be repeated any time soon. A 2007 UK arrest for possession of ecstasy, coupled with Johns’ admission that he had suffered from alcohol and drug problems, using both regularly, during the course of his entire career, have cast a dark cloud over the man’s achievements, though. Johns, who was hopeful of securing a long-term deal with the Wallabies as a kicking consultant, found himself a pariah both in his native Australia, as well as the larger world of Rugby League.
Johns’ personal battle against the joint demons of depression and drug addiction is ongoing – and one that he is committed to winning, with the help and support of his family and friends. None of this changes the fact that the man has a rare gift; one that he is keen to pass on.
The rigid defensive systems in rugby league have necessitated the evolution of the kick as an attacking weapon. There was no greater exponent of this philosophy than Johns and the sheer extent of the kicking options he developed and mastered over the course of his career sets him apart from any other league flyhalf. The maverick Australian has set himself the goal of working out how best these techniques – the ability to use kicks to create space and deceive the opposition – can be applied within a rugby union setting. Johns has spent the last few weeks in Durban with the Sharks, honing the decision-making and kicking skills of the key backline playmakers, most notable Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn.
The feedback, from both sides, has been tremendously positive. Johns, in an interview with a Sydney newspaper, revealed how impressed he was with the professional Sharks setup, as well as the willingness to embrace his ideas from both the players and coaching staff. He reckons that the Sharks backline can develop into truly awesome players if they can combine better option-taking with their already impressive size and speed.
John Plumtree seems pretty pleased with the results too; so much so that Johns will continue to be involved with the team on an ongoing basis. It was a hell of a gamble on Plum’s part, given John’s reputation and personal issues, but one that seems to have paid off. Let’s hope that, in this case, the Aussies’ loss turns out to be the Sharks gain.
Welcome to the Sharks, Andrew Johns!Tweet