The wait would have been excruciating for all those with a chance to become the next Immortal, and it would have been made harder by constant speculation and whispers linking you to it – but for Andrew Johns, by no means did he think he would be the one chosen as the 8th RL Immortal.
Johns, who admitted surprise at being bestowed with the honour, has his picture appear on the Sydney Harbour Bridge to tell him that it was not merely a joke – but that he had actually won the award.
Johns now joins an elite category of players, that includes: Bob Fulton, John Raper, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and the late Arthur Beetson.
It was the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell who made the announcement, with Johns admitting a feeling of being overwhelmed.
“It’s just so overwhelming … those things like winning grand finals and playing for Australia, that’s all team orientated and that’s why you play footy but individual awards, you don’t play to win Dally M’s or Clive Churchill medals or anything like that,” Johns said.
“No-one ever thinks they are going to join this select group of players … an Immortal. I’m just blown away by it.
“You hear whispers, there’s no secrets in rugby league as we all know. I sort of didn’t really believe it.”
“I don’t know when it’s going to sink in. I’m going surfing in a couple of days, it might sink in then.”
“Those guys are like icons of the game and have done so much. I grew up idolising those players.”
Johns, who was perhaps the greatest halfback that the game has ever seen, played in 249 games for the Newcastle Knights, 27 Tests for Australia and 24 Origins for NSW.
Some feel he does not deserve the accolade, given his recent off-field admissions, but Johns would like to think that those events have been left in the past.
“I feel like the game’s forgiven me,” he said.
“I’d love to go back and change some things, but I unfortunately you can’t do that.”
“They were hard times but they shape the person you are. We all make mistakes, don’t we.”
Fellow Immortal Langlands, was pleased to see Johns named as the newest member of the Immortals.
“It’s bloody terrific to see him get it,” Langlands said.
“I hope he enjoys it as much as I did when I came into it. It’s great to see him in there.”