In the modern era of sport science and endless technology, it’s hard to remember a time where simply spending afternoons kicking out on the oval was the path to greatness.
For Andrew Johns, arguably the greatest player of all time, this was how he spent his time after training.
Kicking and bouncing the ball with his brother Matthew.
It’s something Mark Sargent, former Football Manager for the nib Newcastle Knights, remembers fondly.
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“It was always interesting to watch him,” Sargent told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“Even when I worked here as football manager in the early naughties, it’d be interesting to watch him at training.”
Sargent had the chance to play with both Johns brothers in their early years, while his own career was entering its twilight phase.
Even before he burst on the scene in 1994, Sargent knew the man known best as ‘Joey’ was bound to be something special.
“I remember my dad said to me ‘that five eighth in second grade, geez he’s a good player’,” he recalled.
“I just said, ‘wait till you see his brother’.”
After retiring in 1995, Sargent returned to the Knights in the early 2000s as Football Manager and confessed to spending a lot of time watching how Andrew behaved on the training paddock.
“He’d be throwing the ball just to see how it bounced when it landed on a certain part of the ball,” Sargent said.
“No one’s better at understanding the football than him. He’d just kick it or throw it or bounce it just to see what happens when it landed 4 degrees off the point of the ball.
“You watch how it bounces, so then your good enough to kick it on that part of the ball so it goes where you want it to go.”
Sargent, himself a Knights legend with 126 appearances for the club, has no doubt as to where Johns ranks against anyone else he ever played with.
“It’s no contest as to who the best player I ever played with was (Johns),” he said.
“It was freak show stuff.
“Just to watch him muck around with the footy was a fascinating exercise.”