Rugby League Expert & Columnist @RLBarrieMc10
Watch Andrew Johns’ Super League debut in the 2005 clash between Warrington Wolves and Leeds Rhinos from 8pm on Sky Sports Arena on Friday
Last Updated: 02/07/20 8:45am
Sky Sports expert Barrie McDermott recalls rugby league legend Andrew Johns’ memorable debut for Warrington Wolves in September 2005, and considers the possibility of bringing other big-name players over from the NRL for short-term stints in the future…
It was a great night and a fantastic atmosphere.
I spoke to Andrew Johns only recently and we both recalled what a wonderful atmosphere it was – it was electric at the Halliwell Jones Stadium that night.
Right from the start, Johns’ fingerprints were all over that game. I remember his kick-off, it wasn’t short, it wasn’t long – but it seemed to fox everybody in a Leeds shirt. Rob Burrow couldn’t get anywhere near it – and almost got knocked out by Chris Leikvoll!
It was the different way that he played the game that ultimately got Warrington the result that night. What he also got was an extra 5-10% out of everybody in a Warrington shirt – and so the game was just watching Johns doing what he does so well.
I remember in the team meetings building up to the game talking about how we would approach it. I’d played against him quite a few times before in Ashes games and found out what a great player he was, but I wasn’t worried about him going into this game – and neither was anybody else in the Leeds dressing room.
We had the attitude that one player couldn’t make a team. In 2005, we had such a strong squad at Leeds and a robust confidence in one another that he didn’t faze us. Obviously, we were completely wrong!
It wasn’t just Johns being the quality player that he was – it was the improvement that he made to everybody else around him on the night.
Johns is the eighth immortal of the Australian competition and in three games, he showed everyone why. Training and playing with him would have lifted the club and its players to another level – as it clearly did on this night.
Warrington coach Paul Cullen and the team gave Johns a platform to be himself – and it’s something that I would like to see Super League explore again moving forward.
If you’re able to bring quality players into our competition for a short spell, I think it would set the competition alight.
July 3, 2020, 8:00pm
In the short space of time that Johns played in Super League, every ground that he went to had added excitement – the same happened when Sonny Bill Williams made his debut at Headingley at the start of the season.
There was a sense of anticipation and excitement – it was one of those ‘I was there’ moments.
I’d have loved to have seen Johnathan Thurston come over for a stint. I remember when Leeds faced North Queensland Cowboys in the World Club Challenge at Headingley in 2016, there was so much warmth towards him from the crowd.
It means something to watch those players, and those younger players and fans that were there that night will remember it for a long time.
It’s the star-quality players that we should look towards. Players like Kalyn Ponga, Latrell Mitchell, and the Trbojevic brothers… if we could get names like that in Super League, it would light up the competition and give it a lift.
We wouldn’t be able to sign players of that ilk long-term, but if their respective sides didn’t make the end-of-season finals, why not look to bring them over for a short spell?
I wouldn’t want to see 20 Aussies and Kiwis come over for a month of the season – but two or three of the very best would give a massive boost to the game over here.