His future might be elsewhere, but Jack Cogger remains a Knight in 2018 – and that, he says, is all that matters.
“At the end of the day, no matter what jersey you pull on, you always want to win that game,” Johnson told NSWRL.com.au. “For me, every week I’ve got to prepare the best I can, I’ve got to try and become a better footy player.
“I want to be a first grader – and I have to get better. Whether that’s here at the Knights or next year at the Bulldogs, I’ve got a lot of development ahead and so each week I’m working on that.”
It’s a blunt assessment from a 20-year-old half who has already achieved significantly more than many of his peers, representing NSW at the under-16s, under-18s and under-20s levels, before making his NRL debut at the age of 18 and playing eight games in the top flight since.
Cogger’s journey, however, has been far from ideal for an emerging playmaker; in the midst of the Knights’ ‘dark days’ of three consecutive NRL wooden spoons, the Toukley Hawks junior was thrown into the NRL’s youngest starting halves pairing in recent memory, alongside 19-year-old Brock Lamb in 2016. He’s played alongside the experienced Trent Hodkinson since, but Cogger is still yet to taste a victory at the top level.
Fast forward to December 2017, when the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs began circling. After reports emerged that Cogger wanted to head to Belmore immediately to play alongside Kieran Foran, the request was denied, with the Greenacre-born half instead signing for two years from 2019. It means he remains in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW for the time being, but can now look to learn off another of the game’s top halves in Mitchell Pearce.
“He (Pearce) is obviously a really good bloke and a really good footy player, so he’s quite smart when he talks about the game,” Cogger said. “Looking in as an outsider in a way, you pick up a lot from being able to train alongside him.
“Hopefully I get an (NRL) opportunity, with injuries, or come rep footy time there might be a window for me to take. Hopefully I’m playing good in reserve grade at the time and I can step up and make the most of that.”
If Cogger is to impress enough to secure that starting position at the Bulldogs next year, he must first take charge of the Knights’ Intrust Super Premiership outfit which made the second week of the finals in 2017.
“It would be good to go a couple more weeks into the semi-finals this year,” Cogger said. “I think a lot of the guys from last year’s team and guys that played a lot of first grade have come back into the team.
“If we can prepare the best we can every week and take every game on its merit, I think we’re a good chance to be title contenders at the end of the year.”
After a thrilling draw with the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in Round 1, the Knights will next face the Western Suburbs Magpies at Leichhardt Oval. The game kicks off at 1pm (AEDT) on Saturday, 17 March and will be broadcast live on Channel Nine.