Forum Sevens: The Truth Behind A

Was it the possibility of a New South Welshman rivalling Allan Langer as the premier halfback in Rugby League?

Was it because he steered Newcastle to an upset win over Manly in the 1997 Grand Final?

Or was it because he did so with a punctured lung?

Most likely it was a combination of all 3 things, but regardless of how or when it occurred, the Rugby League media fell in love with Andrew Johns. Then, as is often the case, the community caught jumped onto the Andrew Johns bandwagon and Joey became untouchable. He was faultless. He could do no wrong. There was no such thing as luck, everything was intentional and he was called a genius.

By far and away the most powerful influence in Rugby League is the media. The day that the media fell in love with Andrew Johns is the day that Andrew Johns became what he is today ? allegedly the world?s best player. While I do not doubt the abilities of Andrew Johns, he is what he is because of the way he is portrayed in the newspapers, the way commentators talk about him during matches, and the way that the majority of the community is influenced by a select few.

If you continually hear something often enough, you will start to believe it. That is what has happened with the Rugby League community. For years, the Newcastle Knights could not be mentioned without the name Andrew Johns being present. Should someone go and claim that Andrew Johns has been out of form ? like Phil Gould did earlier this season ? the backlash is incredible. Whether Joey wants to just cop it on the chin and get on with things is not in his hands. His coach, team mates, fellow players and most importantly of all, the News Limited enterprise, get behind the Newcastle number 7 and lift him up above all others as they have so often done. For Joey to have a bad game is just unacceptable by their standards.

Television viewers could barely go a month during the season without at least 1 Newcastle match being shown. The commentators of those games love nothing more than excitement, and they are most excited when a try is scored. Over the years, it has seemed that no matter who scores the try for Newcastle, or how it is scored, it has been set up by Andrew Johns. Even if Joey touched the ball once in the entire set, it was that pass or that run that gets credit for the lead up to a try. The amount of times he has been credited by commentators for try assists and the amount of try assists that the statisticians credit him are so far apart you could fit a semi-trailer through the hole.

Even when he was arguably the worst player in the City/Country match this year where he put in numerous kicks that were way too long, straight to players, or in one case, backwards, he was criticised sparingly. The result of this mass-media campaign to relieve Andrew Johns of all scrutiny has had one horrible effect on the Knights. That was until now. Everyone has believed the Knights could not win without Andrew Johns because that is the way the team has forever been portrayed, yet given time, the real stars of Newcastle were able to prove themselves with top class defeats over quality opposition and against the odds this year. They have proved that Andrew Johns is not the driving force behind Newcastle and that Newcastle is not a one-man band. If Joey was all that he was talked up to be, as much as we were made to believe that he is, then surely there is no way that the Knights could have gotten where the were this season despite missing him for almost a quarter of the season all up.

Yes, he is a great player, but he is not the best. The legend behind Andrew Johns is built on the naivety of the media. The naivety that Johns is untouchable and faultless. The media, blinded by their love for Joey, has become the most influential player in the League community.

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