It was a special moment that caught Jack Johns by surprise and one that had him thinking he'd done something wrong – only to realise the voices from the sideline were all too familiar.
Playing for the Newcastle Knights in the Under 20’s competition at McDonald Jones Stadium, Jones was facing off against his current club, South Sydney Rabbitohs, in a curtain-raiser before an NRL fixture.
With a seemingly quiet crowd due to an early kick-off, Johns could hear his name being yelled from the sideline along with some unpleasant sledges.
It took some time for him to realise that the men he thought were sledging him in the front-row of the stadium, were actually 15 of his friends who surprised him at the game.
“One of my best memories was when I was playing the Bunnies in just my third game of Under 20s under Todd Lowrie up in Newcastle and we were playing at McDonald Jones Stadium,” he told The Short Side Podcast.
“About 20 minutes into the game and the scores were tied, and I’m just hearing these blokes on the sideline just abusing me – absolutely giving it to me.
“You know what it’s like at an (Under) 20’s crowd, there’s only 40 or 30 people watching at the game and I was thinking, ‘these blokes are really into me, I must have done something to them'.
“(Then someone asked me) ‘Johns do you know those blokes?’
“And it was about 15 of my mates who drove up from Sydney to surprise me and they reckon in the warm-up they were hiding in the tunnel.
“It was unreal."
While Johns is yet to make his first-grade debut, the 21-year-old has already got a taste of professional Rugby league with a maiden appearance for Italy at the 2017 World Cup.
He admits the experience has put him in perfect position to fight for an eventual NRL debut having played alongside the likes of Kangaroos fullback James Tedesco and Eels forward Nathan Brown.
“It was a bit of shock at the end of my Under 20s year, when Cameron Ciraldo gave me a ring to see if I wanted to have a crack, and It was unreal,” he said.
“I really enjoyed it and learned a lot of things from some of those great players like Teddy (James Tedesco), Browny (Nathan Brown) – he was my room-mate.
“So I learned plenty from him on and off the field.”