NRL 2019: Matty Johns in the Knights Halves, Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga, Storm 2017


In 2017, Matthew Johns worked closely with Melbourne duo Cooper Cronk and Cameron Munster.

They took the storm to a title.

Now, Johns says he can see a strangely similar blossoming combination between Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga in Newcastle.

Like Munster, Ponga, 20, is making the transition from No. 6 to No. 6 this year.

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He will run alongside midfielder Pearce, whose blue-and-red debut season has been hampered by a shoulder injury.

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His new partnership is a source of excitement for Hunter.

Johns says it could be the combination of lethal halves in the NRL.

The big Johns final in 2019

The big Johns final in 2019


"It's a great five-eighth combination. Unbelievable. Potentially the best in the league, "said Johns in the Fox League on Wednesday.

"If you have a halfback that can play all over the field, like Pearcey, he lets the number 6 basically appear where he wants to. In 2017, when Cronk led the whole field to Melbourne, he let Munster do whatever he wanted, choose his moments, and that's what Kalyn will do this year with Mitchell. "

Johns – who works part-time as a halves consultant for NRL clubs – spent a lot of time with Melbourne players in 2017.

Although he has not been asked to work specifically with Ponga and Pearce this year, he says the pair of Riders can come up with a model similar to that of Melbourne in 2017.

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Expert Pearce – who has played many State of Origin and NRL finals – will take on the role of a controller halfback, while young Ponga can use his natural athleticism and his football to give the team an X factor. Just like Cronk and Munster did two years ago.

That leaves center back Connor Watson to play the role of legend Billy Slater on Newcastle's spine.

Beattie promises to harden

Beattie promises to harden


"Pearcey and Cronk are different types of players, they have different attributes and different moves," Johns said.

"But game makers learn the art of game management as they get older, it's a skill you learn. The ability to control a game actually happens at the end of your career.

"Last year, I was able to see that Mitchell was getting very good at it in Newcastle.

"Mitchell will be able to control this whole field this year. It will not be a matter of drawing a line in the field and saying "Kalyn is your side and Mitchell is you", Mitchell will run on the field.

"This will allow Kalyn and Connor Watson, in many ways, to play like two fullbacks.

"It's like the year that Melbourne won the comp in 2017 … Cronk ran the field, and Billy Slater and Munster played a bit of six and a bit of one.

"I think Newcastle can do the same thing."

Fifa: Flanno is moving on

Fifa: Flanno is moving on


Pearce's roaming role was evident during Saturday's game against the Dragons. The halfback spent time floating around the park, and even appeared on the left end to try the side.

Pearce said This week, Knights coach Nathan Brown has given him a license to roam this year, instead of being on the right side of the ruck.

As for Ponga, his move to No.6 is exciting for fans, but it may take a few games to polish.

His performance for the Maori All Stars was criticized but he bounced back with a better showing for the Knights last week in Wollongong.

Johns has some simple advice for the youngsters of five eighths, which he also shared with the Munster in 2017.

Johnson focused on footy

Johnson focused on footy


"When Munster went to No.6 initially, he was very anxious. In his mind he was thinking of Wally Lewis, "I have to do this and I have to do it," and I said "no, you do not mate." It's a different era, it's a different game, "said Johns.

"The key to Munster when he went to No.6 was 'if you think something is going on, call the ball and go ahead'. His natural strength and speed have created opportunities, and that will be the same with Kalyn.

"You do not have to look for the ideal. If you have a feeling that something is happening, just call the soccer team and walk away and something will happen. "


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