Johns is eager for baptism at Wigan

Dave Hadfield meets a strong new signing for an already potent side
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The Independent Online

Matthew Johns will watch his Wigan team-mates of next season in person for the first time today and, even with his impeccable pedigree in Australia, it would be a surprise if he was not at least quietlyimpressed.

Matthew Johns will watch his Wigan team-mates of next season in person for the first time today and, even with his impeccable pedigree in Australia, it would be a surprise if he was not at least quietlyimpressed.

He is one of the signings who, according to the timetable envisaged by the Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, should make next season, rather than this, the one when his team really come good. Johns, Adrian Lam and David Furner would improve any British side, but the evidence of this afternoon is likely to be that the club are ahead of schedule. Johns is seen as the answer to the stand-off problem, but the way that Andy Farrell has filled in outside Willie Peters means that it has been a problem in name only this season.

Wigan need to beat Hull this afternoon in order to ensure that they will only - only! - need to avoid defeat by St Helens next week to go into the Super League play-offs in first place, something that Lindsay did not believe they necessarily had the quality in their squad to do.

That they are likely to is a tribute to the mood that Frank Endacott has created within the club. With Endacott con-firmed as coach for the next two seasons and such an influx of talent to come, how good are they going to be next year?

Johns, who has spent the whole of his professional career so far playing alongside his brother, Andrew, at the Newcastle Knights, is certainly looking forward to finding out. "There are going to be such a lot of creative players," he says. "Half the reason you succeed as a player is when you can take a step back and bounce off these guys. The standard I set myself in Australia is to be the player other players want to play with. That's what I'll be trying to do here."

Much will depend on how well he blends with Lam, a player he knows mainly as an opponent with the Sydney Roosters and Queensland. Although it would be unfair to expect the almost psychic level of understanding he has enjoyed with his brother, he and Lam have both shown themselves to be highly adaptable players. Throw Farrell into the equation, as Johns frequently does, and it is easy to see why Wigan, much as they have enjoyed this season, are already looking forward to next.

So, in a sense, are Hull, but only because they are sick of this one. What once looked to be a good chance of making the play-offs has petered out in a long series of injuries. On top of that, they face another dislocated close-season, wheeling and dealing to replace the original Gateshead Australians, most of whom are leaving now that the club's overseas quota is coming down to five.

Also on his way is Brian Carney, the Irish winger who is joining Wigan. If he plays today, the prospect of making something out of his still raw potential is another thing that might appeal to Johns.

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