A hospitality suite at Lords during the first Ashes Test match in 2005 may seem a million miles away from the grim northern sport of rugby league, but it was here when John Fordham met Simon Moran.
Fordham was Andrew Johns’ agent, while Moran held the majority of shares and a seat on the board of directors at Warrington Wolves. Between them they put together one of Super League’s most anticipated short term signings in the history of the sport.
With Newcastle Knights unlikely to make the NRL play offs, and the Wolves having their best ever Super League season, Johns’ ambition to play Super League rugby became a reality even if it was short lived.
The Wolves announced the signing on August 1st, but it would be another six weeks before Warrington’s ‘Barmy Army’ would see the Australian in the primrose and blue.
As the Knights ended their NRL season, Johns was quickly on a plane to England where he was followed by the Australian press. Interest was high, even in Australia, as Johns announced he would love to take Warrington to the Grand Final.
As the build up reached fever pitch in Warrington, the noise at the Halliwell Jones Stadium was deafening.
A nervous Johns kicked off the game, and his kick fell into the hands of Rob Burrow who spilled the ball forward under pressure from Chris Leikvoll.
From the scrum, the ball was spread wide from Johns to Lee Briers, Briers to Logan Swann, Swann to Martin Gleeson, who found space for Henry Fa’afili to score the game’s first try and send the Warrington fans into hysterics.
However Leeds fought back and brought the game to 18-16 before Johns inspired the Wolves to stretch the lead further in the second half. The enthusiasm of Johns himself couldn’t have been made clear as he set up Swann’s try before thumping his fist in the air in celebration.
Gleeson, Brent Grose and Nathan Wood all scored in what was Warrington’s night after a warm September day.
Warrington would travel to Hull FC where Johns again would inspire the Wolves to secure that fourth place spot. But that meant the two teams would meet in the first round of the play offs, and John Kear’s side learnt from their mistakes a week earlier.
Hull FC dominated the Wolves, knocking them out of the play offs at the first attempt. A 40-6 loss brought the club back down to earth, but Johns managed to put his name on the score board with all of the Wolves’ six points.
Warrington coach Paul Cullen said his side was not good enough to beat Hull FC on the day, but did not regret brining Johns over.