Alfie says Johns was one of the best - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Alfie says Johns was one of the best

By Wayne Heming 10/04/2007 07:27:49 PM Comments (0)

Andrews Johns may have ended his illustrious playing career but one thing is certain, debate over whether Newcastle's favourite son was the greatest rugby league player of all time will rage on.

Was Johns better than Wally Lewis?

He is set to become rugby league's eighth Immortal alongside legends John Raper, Reg Gasnier, Bob Fulton, Clive Churchill, Graeme Langlands, Arthur Beetson and Lewis - there is no greater recognition.

One of his great rivals, Queensland's own No.7 legend Allan Langer, loved his battles with Johns and also the beers they shared after games.

"Joey brought the best out of you as a player," said Langer, living in retirement on the Sunshine Coast.

"He was definitely up there with the best.

"I had the privilege in life of playing with both Wally Lewis and Joey and I rate them as the two best players I played with.

"As a halfback, he had everything."

Recently retired champion five-eighth Brad Fittler joined the chorus singing Johns' praises.

"He was the best competitor. When he had the artillery with him and he was injury-free, there was no stopping him," said Fittler.

"He really tested you and he was a great player to play with.

"He could not only run the game but he used to inspire with his defence. He really had everything."

Parramatta legend Brett Kenny said he played against some of the best halfbacks in the game and Johns was right up with them.

"Probably the best I ever played with was Peter Sterling," said Kenny.

"But Joey ... geez, you'd have to say he was probably the best player in the world.

"He's arguably the best player to have played the game in the last 20 to 25 years.

"You look at a guy like Wally Lewis ... but there was just something very special about Joey.

"He was very good with the football and he was the innovator of a lot of kicks we take for granted these days like the banana kick.

"He started it all.

"It was amazing the things he could do with a football.

"The great thing for Joey is that while he is in shock now, he will be able to look back on this in a few weeks and know he achieved everything he wanted in the game."

Johns' forced retirement is certain to re-ignite the argument between Cockroach and Canetoad fans as to who was the best Origin player.

Johns was hailed the King of Origin after his command performance in the 2005 interstate series, especially after the second game when played arguably the most dominant Origin game in history.

That night, making a comeback from a broken jaw on a handful of club games, he played like he had a big "S" on his chest.

League fans south of the Tweed refused to accept Lewis' greatness until he left them with little choice.

Johns hadn't quite convinced parochial Queenslanders he deserved equal billing with "The King", but he was certainly getting close.

In many ways Lewis and Johns were alike as footballers.

Both possessed magnificent boots and brains.

Both were fearless defenders and both could turn a game with their vision and love of a big occasion.

Lewis won eight Origin man-of-the-match awards and 19 of his 31 games.

Johns, who battled to wear the No.7 and even played off the bench in his early Origin days, won 13 of his 22 Origins and four man-of-the-match awards.

Fittler said Johns was bridging the gap on Lewis later in his career.

"You look at Wally Lewis and he really contributed to State of Origin heavily and Joey later on had a massive influence," said Fittler who came out of retirement to share in the Blues 2004 Origin series triumph.

"Origin was one area where him and Wally Lewis really stood out.

"It puts them pretty high."

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, who has witnessed similar spinal injuries claim the careers of Bronco players Gorden Tallis and Barry Berrigan, said he thought the writing was on the wall for Johns after seeing footage of his training mishap.

"As hard as it for him today and the first couple of days, I've got no doubt that it's right for him," said Bennett.

"He was a wonderful player, ultra talented, great skills and he had a great mind for the game.

"There is a life after football and he will enjoy that."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2021 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news