The incredible career of Andrew Johns continues to polarise opinion. Regarded by many as the greatest player to lace on a boot, ‘Joey’ was named halfback in the Australian Team of the Century in 2008 and as the eighth Immortal in 2012 – both almighty, and richly deserved, accolades that were vehemently protested in some quarters due to his post-career admissions of drug abuse and addiction.
Johns steered Newcastle to euphoric Grand Final victories in 1997 and 2001 – both upsets – and was captain and the Clive Churchill Medal winner in the latter. He won a record three Dally M Medals and came desperately close to winning two more, among a host of individual honours, including two Golden Boot awards. On the representative scene, he played 23 Origins and 23 Tests, captaining state and country and spearheading countless victories.
Rugby League purists generally regard him as the most complete player to lace on a boot – brilliant with the ball in hand or on foot, a powerful defender, an instinctive ball-runner, a marvellous performer in the clutch, and a fierce competitor with peerless vision. He was named at No.1 in the Top 50 players of all time listed in Will Evans’ A Short History of Rugby League in Australia, while Nick Tedeschi paid Johns identical dues in a Top 20 rundown in the soon-to-be-released The Book of NRL Lists.
Some attest Johns’ extraordinary array of achievements were made all the more remarkable by the off-field demons that rag-dolled him throughout his career, including a long battle with bipolar disorder. Just as many have been all too happy to wipe their hands of the Newcastle legend thanks to his drug use. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, there is no question he was a once-in-a-generation player.
Every gun halfback to emerge in the NRL will be compared against the unattainable benchmark set by ‘Joey’, with Wests Tigers wunderkind Luke Brooks the latest to be burdened with the ‘next Andrew Johns’ tag.
The team at AP7 Montages have put together this wonderful compilation of some of Johns’ greatest hits, overdubbed with tributes from the likes of Phil Gould, Peter Sterling, Paul Harragon and Ray Warren:
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