Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns certainly left his mark on the rugby league world.
Arguably the best player to play the game, Johns was a master of his craft.
But in saying that, he didn’t get to where he got without hard work and dedication to improve as a player.
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Newcastle Knights great Bill Peden witnessed it first-hand.
Early in their careers, the two lived together and would regularly go to the local park to work on their game.
“We lived in New Lambton there just near Harker Oval,” Peden told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“We’d go down and practice stuff, and selfishly I used Joey and picked his brain all the time.”
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Johns had plenty of qualities which made him unique to others.
One of his signature moves was his famous ‘banana kick’.
But how was it born?
Johns would regularly work on his kicking game at the park, while Peden stood on the other side of the oval and fielded the kicks.
Hours would pass and Johns would start to get creative.
In a lead up to a game against Brisbane, the ‘banana kick’ was created.
Ironically, Peden was the beneficiary.
“One of the first times it got used, it was up in Brisbane,” Peden said.
Ponga, all heart.
“I was on the bench and something happen to one of our wingers and Malcom said, ‘well you can play on the wing’.
“Joey had been practicing the banana kick through the week, so I was down the park with him because we lived together, so I was just catching them.
“So, it’s funny how things end up, he’s put a banana kick in and I’ve run through, caught it and I think I bounced off Darren Smith and fell over in the corner.
“I got the benefits of a ‘Joey’ Johns banana kick.”
When the duo weren’t playing or training, they spent most weekends in their lounge room watching rugby league games.
Johns’ attention to detail was something that mesmerized Peden.
“We’d watch footy together and I keep asking him stuff and he’d tell me stuff and it probably helped me in the games because we’d be talking about it and he’d say, ‘well if you do this, I’ll do that’,” Peden said.
“So we concocted all these little things and it helped my play so much.”
Watching other teams play closely, Johns would conjure up ways the Knights could expose weaknesses.
His knowledge of the game was like no other.
“We’d be watching game and he’d say ‘see how that bloke did that’ and then six weeks later we’d be playing against someone and he’d say, ‘remember that time we were talking about that, we’re going to that’ and I’d say, ‘oh yeah righto no worries’,” Peden said.
Peden reaped the benefits of living with Johns.
He may have been ball boy while Johns practiced his kicks, but he learnt so much and improved as a player.
“It made me a better player because I could learn from the best in the game,” Peden added.