Cooper Johns gets first taste of senior footy, with Falcons
RUGBY LEAGUE: Teenager Cooper Johns got his first taste of senior footy with a surprise outing in the Queensland Cup on Saturday night and it's left him craving him more.
The 18-year-old son of former Australian play-maker Matthew Johns laced up for the Sunshine Coast Falcons in a 20-18 loss to Townsville at Bokarina.
The Melbourne Storm-contracted talent was given a run with the NRL side's feeder team in the state league, after impressing with the Victoria Thunderbolts in the Queensland under-20 competition.
And he thoroughly enjoyed the occasion.
"Obviously the physicality was up a bit from playing under-20s but it was really good, a lot of fun playing with the boys," he said.
"That's been my goal... to impress the coaches enough to come up here and play with the Falcs."
Johns said he noticed the intensity in the state league and said he was a target for the opposition.
"You've got to be on your toes a lot more all the time," he said. "They're always looking to try and find your weakness, especially me being young, they came at me a bit.
"But after a big pre-season with the NRL squad, it's really got me prepared for playing against men, with the physicality of the game.
"So it was really good and I'm looking forward to hopefully keeping that spot there."
A slight play-maker, he says he's working hard on his defence. "Being a young player and not weighing that much, it's a very important part of a half-back's role," he said.
"That's sort of been a big goal of mine...just to get out there and rip in, in defence."
And he's trying to add some bulk to his frame.
"I've been trying, eating a lot, but it's a slow process, putting that weight on," he said.
He's been doing an extra session on a his days off and drinking shakes between meals to help with that.
"That's been working for me the last couple of weeks... hopefully I can keep that up and turn into a forward soon," he joked.
The Storm gave him a run with the Falcons to give a taste of the action against men. He's eager to get more game time with the Intrust Super Cup side.
"I feel like I'm up to the physicality. I've just got to work on some stuff with some combinations with the side (Falcons)," he said.
"It was my first training session (with them) on Friday night."
Of course, a berth in the NRL is his aim.
"If I prove myself in this (the state league) you never know what can happen," he said. "But I'm just worried about getting my game right at the moment."
He said his father gave him a word of advice before his match with the Falcons.
"He just said to go out and have fun and rip in, in defence, and prove to them you're up to it."
He also gets some guidance from another renowned relative and ex-Australian representative, Andrew Johns.
"The old man (and) the uncle, in my ear, all the time," he laughed.
Johns gets some help from his club-mates at Melbourne too.
"I really like working with Billy Slater," he said.
"He gives a really good perspective from a fullback that I've never really had before.
"He's given me and my room-mate Harry Grant some little trick plays for us to work with, within the ruck, so we've been working on them."
Falcons coach Craig Ingebrigtsen believed Johns had a solid game.
"It's a tough call... to play a young fellow in the halves but he did a fair job Coops, he tried really hard," he said.
"He's on a learning curve."