Andrew Johns has lifted the lid on the conversation that led to a now-quashed bid to coach the Samoan national team
Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns has lifted the lid on the conversation that led to a now-quashed bid to coach the Samoan national team with brother Matthew and cross-code legend Sonny Bill Williams.
Rugby league’s iconic siblings sent the rumour mill into overdrive earlier this week when Matthew revealed that he and Andrew, along with Williams, were considering taking the helm at Samoa with uncertainty over coach Matt Parish’s future.
“They’ve got a head coach at the moment there. But I spoke to Joey again about it today, and yeah, definitely (we are serious),” Matthew told Fox League on Sunday night.
The bid was quickly shot down, with the Samoan national team releasing a statement backing Parish as their man for the future.
“Matt has been our head coach since 2013 and has helped strengthen our game on and off the field,” Rugby League Samoa president Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a said in a statement.
“The Rugby League Samoa Board wish Matt and the team every success as preparations continue for the World Cup later this year.”
While the dream team coaching bid was snuffed out before it gained any real momentum, Andrew Johns dished on the casual conversation that snowballed into an international mystery, speaking to Wide World of Sports for Freddy and The Eighth, and then on Nine’s coverage of Thursday night football.
“It started informally, I was just talking to a few Samoan players and talking about the Tongan team, about how good they’ve gone,” Johns told Nine’s Thursday Night Footy post-game show.
“And then looking at the list of the Samoan team, they’ve got a team that could not only challenge Tonga, it could really challenge Australia, New Zealand or Great Britain. There’s no reason why not.
“So, I spoke to my brother and he was interested, and then I had a quick conversation with Sonny, and he said ‘I’d be interested to help out to’.
“You get someone like Sonny Bill with his background and his Samoan heritage, you could imagine how he would inspire the team, it’s exciting looking at it.”
Williams echoed Johns’ sentiments and expressed his desire to see Pacific Island nations reach the heights they’re widely thought to be capable of in the international game.
“For me, I’m a proud Samoan, everyone knows that I’m a proud pacific islander,” Willimas told Nine’s Thursday Night Footy. “Not just Samoa but I’m proud of all the boys.
“I’m really a vocal man when it comes to us as a pacific nation, we represent so much on the field but we seem to lack that representation off it.
“Like Joey touched on, we had a coffee the other day, and he just touched on, that he and his brother were really keen on getting into that space. And I said if you guys get into there, I’ll be keen to help out where I can. It was an interesting conversation, and I took the chance straight away and said I’d be keen to help out where I could.”
Johns explained, had plans come to fruition, the trio would have put an up-and-coming coach like former Sharks mentor John Morris in charge while he, his brother and Williams would play mentoring roles.
“You’d get like a young coach to oversee it all,” Johns said earlier this week on Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth. “I look at someone like say a Morris. He was a young coach who I’ve had a bit to do with at Newcastle. He oversees it.
“I’d still love to do it. And mate, as I said, I’d do it for nothing. Whatever they were going to pay me, just put it back in the pool for where they stay and infrastructure within the camps and also give that money back to the players and give them incentive to play.”
Johns also revealed he has a strong affinity with Samoa owing to a number of trips he’s made there over the years, particularly in the wake of the 2009 tsunami.
“For me, I have a relationship, I’ve been to Samoa half-a-dozen times,” Johns said.
“When they had the tsunami over there, myself and Nigel Vangana took some excess gear and just went over there to show that ruby league cares. And also just to give back. Rugby league has given us everything in our lives.
“I look at Tonga, but you look at the Samoan team – the difference between them is Samoa has out-and-out world-class halves…They’ve got Jarome Luai and Dylan Brown. But for whatever reason they haven’t really fired.
“I have no doubt, that if the Samoan team get together and get the right team there and the right people behind it, I’ve got no doubt in the next 5-10 years they can win a World Cup.
“International football would then be back at that level…This is the thing, we need the international game to thrive.”
Parish is understood to be open to the idea of the Johns brothers and Williams helping out in some capacity.
“I have spoken to Matt (Parish) this morning and he is happy that the Johns brothers and SBW have expressed an interest to help coach Samoa in the upcoming World Cup and is hopeful of reaching out to them in the next couple of days to secure their commitment,” Faafouina Su’a said in a statement.
Asked if he was prepared to offer his services under Parish, Johns replied: “Probably not, we have our own philosophies.
“I spoke to Matthew and our philosophies and our ideas about how the team would play, we’d best do it on our own.”
That was the same feeling from Matthew who told SEN Radio: “you don’t make changes by laying out witches’ hats as someone’s assistant coach.”
Johns also revealed he’d be returning to the NSW Blues Origin camp this year.
“Yeah, I’ll come in and help out,” Johns said when asked by NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler.
“I go in after the bonding session. Freddy’s got a very short lead. You know those dogs that have muzzles and cones over them? I’ve got all those, scratching myself, biting people – a short lead.”
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