Andrew Johns has revealed how 18 months of torture led him to a performance he describes as the best of his career.
The champion Newcastle halfback injured his knee against Parramatta in Round 3 of the 2004 season and spent the rest of the year on the sidelines, before copping another setback the following season after breaking his jaw against the Warriors in Round 6.
According to the knockers, the future Rugby League Immortal was finished but 59 days later he produced arguably the greatest individual performance of all time.
“The best performance would be 2005 Origin, Game Two,” Johns said while appearing on his brother’s program on Fox League, Sunday Night with Matty Johns.
“I destroyed my knee the year before and I was out for 12 months, then I came back for Newcastle and after about two weeks I broke my jaw.
“I was worried that I’d never play again let alone playing rep footy, so when something you love so much is taken away it really hurts you.”
Low on confidence due after the two injuries, a chance meeting with Wayne Bennett sparked him into one of the hardest-working periods of his career to get himself back on the field.
Once I got the shot to go back to Origin, I didn't have a doubt in my mind that I’d kill it.Andrew Johns
Johns was always gifted, hard-working and a fierce competitor, but this period off the field was the catalyst for one of the great, if not the greatest State of Origin performance.
“I ran into Wayne Bennett and I said I’m coming back from this knee injury, I’m having nightmares, I’ve lost all of my confidence, I don’t think I can play again, I don’t think I can get to that level where I’ve played before and if I can’t get there, I think I’m going to retire,” Johns said.
“He said, ‘‘Look, there’s this program at the Brisbane institute of sport where they’re rehabbing knees, why don’t you come up here and try it out?’
“I went up there, there was two trainers who whipped me back into shape.
“I went up there for one week, the next week I broke my jaw, so I pretty much went up there for six weeks, seven weeks in isolation and trained.
“I’ve never trained so hard, I’ve never been so fit.”
Once Johns was physically in shape, his state of mind was no longer an issue. When Matthew asked his brother if he could see his great performance coming, Andrew’s response was simple.
“I had so many knockers at that time saying, ‘He’s finished,’” Johns said.
“Once I got the shot to go back to Origin, I didn't have a doubt in my mind that I’d kill it.”