Though Wayne Bennett wasn’t keen on answering the question, do you think Johnston will eventually top Ken Irvine’s record of 212 career tries?
Newcastle is on track for its first finals appearance since 2013, a long-awaited achievement following the Bennett and Brown years that comes approximately 350 years ahead of schedule.
But despite returning to life inside the top eight, the side has remained respectful to its past by ensuring its strive for consistency remains as tough as Tony Butterfield’s coal-infused thighs.
Mixing jubilant dawns with dismal lows, 2020 has seen the Knights perish to Canterbury, draw with Penrith and defeat Canberra, all while losing three hookers and thriving off the side’s attacking genius, Kurt Mann.
This means the Knights have shifted north with their haphazard properties in tow, much like how you’d move to South Beach or Manhattan but keep your three-quarter pants.
It confirms no matter where the Steel City club sits on the table, they are duty-bound to be a highly reactive property akin to magnesium in hydrochloric acid or an AFL footballer on the Gold Coast.
In fact, despite the disparity in table position, you could argue this season is identical to last year’s momentarily encouraging campaign under Nathan Brown, only with a longer delay in disappointment.
This was one of the Novocastrian club’s most notorious false dawns, with Brown’s side sitting in the top four after toppling eventual premiers the Roosters before heading off for a hard-earnt off-season in July.
For the uninitiated, the Knights have built a reputation for inflicting abominable pain on its doe-eyed supporters in recent years by slowly transforming from a powerhouse to a footy club whose strong suit wasn’t footy.
When they weren’t languishing a rung above reserve grade, the Hunter club could specialise in making easy assignments tough and making tough assignments easy, and that was just the pronunciations across the brothers Mata’utia.
Like any psychological profile, experts believe the club’s inability to love itself stems from a number of unresolved incidents in its formative years, mainly its two premierships.
While not discounting the benefits of winning, both deciders involved significant periods atop cruel and treacherous roller-coasters. The 1997 season was utterly nuts, while 2001 included Parramatta.
Such is the permanent disfigurement of self-regard that not even an outsider like Adam O’Brien can shake the trait. Despite making generous inroads inside the club’s terrifying psyche, the impressive rookie coach still finds himself regularly walking the tightrope between Adam O’Brain and Adam O’Brown.
Not even he can even resist the temptation to flirt with danger, opting to rest superstar Kalyn Ponga for this weekend’s blockbuster with the Roosters after a weekend of treatment from the Sharks one degree removed from knife crime.
It was an onslaught that culminated with Chad Townsend attempting to mount the fullback’s headgear like a ski lift, an incident that was enough to convince O’Brien that being Ponga was now almost as dangerous as attending a junior league match in Western Sydney.
But whatever transpires this season for the Knights, you can guarantee it will be met with unconditional support from its fans, that brave bunch of Hunter Stadium faithful who continue to endure a range of rare and varied insults to their patronage so incomprehensible it would drive us normal people to lunacy or the racetrack next door.
Such is their patience and commitment, they see a team that performs like it has been given a checklist of crazy boneheaded plays to complete, and instead of lamenting, they unreservedly applaud its good completion rate.
Nevertheless, they are deservedly heralding a new era at Newcastle, and rightly so. It must be nice to see honesty sessions held sparingly, unlike previous years when they’d be held under the posts.