It’s not everyday a Johns returns to Cessnock.
It is the name which perhaps rocketed the small town into the national psyche, with Andrew and Matthew Johns growing up in the coalfields prior to their stratospheric careers getting off the ground.
This weekend, it’s Jack’s turn to take to the hallowed turf at Cessnock Sports Ground.
However, this won’t be his first time playing against the Goannas.
Judging by the response from his maiden visit, he’s not expecting the red carpet to be rolled out.
“I ran out there a couple of years ago, I was playing for Wests in the A grade comp,” Johns said.
“A fair few of the boys came out swinging, they wanted to rip my head off.
“I’m expecting that again on Saturday (20 February).”
The trial represents a significant milestone in Johns’ career.
2020 saw him play a total of three games for South Sydney across the NRL and NSW Cup, mostly thanks to the COVID-19 induced cancellation of the reserve grade competitions.
Now, after a change of scenery and long pre-season, he’s ready to make an impact.
“I’m definitely trying to crack the side,” Johns said.
“I feel like I can do it and I feel like I can offer the side something.
“Whether it be back-row, 13 or in the halves, I’m really comfortable in all those positions.”
This is Johns’ second stint in the Knights system, where he broke into the NSW Cup squad in 2017 as a five-eighth.
Now, more accustomed to the forward pack, he insists that’s where he plays his best football.
“I’ve actually really enjoyed it (moving to the halves),” Johns said.
“It lets me take a breath a bit, in the halves everything is really full on for 80 minutes straight.
“You can more focus on yourself, rather than other players on the field.”
Jack is the third generation of Johns to make a name for himself in this sport.
The legacy of his father and uncle are unarguable, while his grandfather Gary is a Goannas legend.
With the Knights playing a trial in the area for the first time since 2007, Jack confirmed at least some of the Johns clan would be in attendance.
“Nan and Pop will be there, they’ve lived there pretty much their whole lives,” he said.
“They’ll be very excited to come out and watch.”
- by Zac Nissen