Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran credits Andrew Johns with adding the polish that has the Sea Eagles on the cusp on premiership glory and NRL domination.
Foran describes working with Johns, who he considers the greatest rugby league player of alltime, as “outrageous”.
And he says he and fellow half Daly Cherry-Evans have taken their games to a new level since the club secured exclusive use of the legendary halfback’s services this season.
Prior to that Johns acted as a coaching consultant for several NRL clubs, but his extended sessions have transformed potential into class, elevating the Manly pair to rank amongst the best playmaking combinations in the game.
They disposed of one of their rivals for that honour when they outplayed South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds and John Sutton last weekend and their clash with Sydney Roosters NSW Origin pair James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce will go a long way to deciding Sunday’s grand final at ANZ Stadium.
Pearce last week described Cherry-Evans as the form player in the NRL, a call due in no small part to the work of Johns.
“With Joey, it’s just the polish,” said Foran.
“He comes in once or twice a week and his ability to fine tune aspects of our game has really helped us out this year.
“You always need someone keeping you on your toes, adding to your skills, finding ways to do this better or do that better, and that’s what he does.”
Combined, the Manly halves’ try assists and line break assists have jumped 46 per cent on last year’s numbers, while they are also getting better at sharing the kicking duties, a part of the game once dominated by Cherry-Evans now far more evenly spread.
But it is Johns’ insights when training that have Foran most in awe.
“He’s telling us what he sees, he’s giving us an insight into his vision,” Foran said.
“I can’t express how lucky we are to have him working with us.
“A bloke who I believe was the greatest player to lace on a boot, it’s incredible.
“I always pinch myself when he’s down there throwing a footy or kicking a footy with us, it’s outrageous really.”
The Roosters win over Newcastle in last week’s preliminary final may have only aided Johns’ efforts this week, sparing him being emotionally torn between his employer and the club and region he represented his whole career.
But Johns is not the only man making an impact of the youthful playmakers.
As a former premiership-winning half, Manly head coach Geoff Toovey too has had his fair share of influence on the duo.
“The things I get out of Tooves are his passion and his calmness,” Cherry-Evans said.
“Believe it or not he’s really calm.
“He’s been in these positions before as both a coach and player, he knows how to handle them and that definitely rubs off on myself.”