New kid on block Corey Johnson pays tribute to retired Leeds Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan
HAVING HAD a taste of top-flight action, Leeds Rhinos youngster Corey Johnson is hungry for more.
The 18-year-old hooker made his Betfred Super League debut as a substitute in Rhinos’ final game of the season.
He was brought off the bench for the last 10 minutes of Rhinos’ 26-4 win over Coral Challenge Cup holders Warrington Wolves and described the experience as “amazing”.
A product of the Lock Lane club in his home town of Castleford, Johnson was a member of the England academy side which whitewashed Australian Schoolboys in last year’s two-Test series.
And he is regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in the European game.
“It is what I have wanted to do all my life,” said Johnson who was presented with his match shirt before the game by retiring Rhinos legend Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“To finally get to run out with the boys was an amazing experience.
“It was class to get the win, we scored a few tries while I was on and got good field position, so it was good.”
Rhinos added 10 points during his time on the field and Johnson was inches away from scoring a debut try, but Warrington’s defence held him up over their line.
“I thought I had scored it, I was gutted,” he said.
With the game in the balance, coach Richard Agar left it late to give Johnson his chance. That meant he had to wait for 70 anxious minutes on the bench before being introduced.
“They were coming and going,” Johnson – who played twice on dual-registration for Featherstone Rovers in the Championship this year – said of his nerves during the long wait.
“There were points in the game when I wanted to get on to try and help out the boys but, obviously, I came on when Rich thought it was right.
“I was hoping I’d get a taste of it this year, but I didn’t know whether I would or not.
“Obviously we have been a bit up and down this year, but I am just glad I have.”
Rhinos’ players are now on their autumn break and will return to training in November.
“I think this is going to be the most important pre-season/off-season I’ve had so far,” Johnson predicted.
“I just want to be able to push for a position next year.
“I want to try and focus on getting a regular spot in Super League over the next few years.”
Johnson is a player Agar has high hopes for and he would have got an opportunity sooner if Rhinos had not been involved in a relegation battle.
“I rate him as a coach, I think he’s class,” Johnson said of the former Hull and Wakefield Trinity boss who took charge in May. “He’s very good with the young boys and he puts his faith in us, which is the main thing.”
Of the presentation from Jones-Buchanan, who has also predicted a bright future for the rookie number nine, Johnson said: “He is an idol at the club so it was class. To get to share the field with him was an amazing experience.”