Matty Johns has recalled the hilarious story of how he had to sneak on an aeroplane to make it in time to replace a sick Geoff Toovey in the 1998 Origin series.
Johns played the series opener in Sydney and was then a late call-up for the decider to play for Toovey, who had fallen ill and had to make a mercy dash to get from Newcastle to the Sydney Football Stadium in time for kick-off.
“In 1998 I played the first game and then got dropped, not the first time,” Johns said on SEN1170’s Morning Glory with Matty Johns show.
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“And then the night before Game III, I’ve gone out with the Newcastle boys and went for a massive feed and got on the drink.
“I got back that night and Joey rings me and says Tooves (Geoff Toovey) is really crook. He said if he is no good in the morning they are thinking about bringing you in for the game.
“I’m thinking it’s Tooves you would have to shoot him for him not to play. It’s Tooves he will be fine.”
However the notoriously tough Toovey’s condition worsened overnight prompting Blues skipper Laurie Daley to call Johns again when he woke up.
“So I go to sleep and Laurie rings me in the morning and says Tooves is still crook, I’ll keep you posted. I said no worries,” Johns recalled.
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“Then at one in the afternoon I get a call from Blues coach Tommy Raudonikis and he says Mate you are in. Go to Belmont and jump on a flight and they were those light aircraft and he said get down here as soon as you can.”
However unknown to Johns the NSW manager had neglected to buy him a ticket for the plane.
“So I had to drive there and it was kick-off in about six and a half hours,” Johns recalled.
“I get to the airport and ask for a ticket for Matthew Johns. They have a look and there was nothing.
“I said can you have another look and they said no there is just nothing here.
“I ring Tommy and I say there is no ticket. He said I don’t care just get on the flight. So I went to the lady and said is there any way I can get on the flight? She said unless you get a ticket you just can’t.
“I rang Tommy again and said I can’t get on because I haven’t got a ticket. He said just get down here. Just get on the flight somehow.
“As he said that the captain comes along and said what is going on? So I explained it to him and he said sweet. He said Mate just sit on the floor in the cockpit.
“So there I am on the floor with no seatbelt sitting between the two pilots on the floor on my way to an Origin decider.”
For the record Johns arrived safely, but the Blues lost the decider 19-4 and the Maroons claimed the series.
Originally published as ‘Just get on the flight somehow’: Matty Johns’ hilarious late call-up for 1998 Origin decider