19 Jul 2023

Metcalf on Johnson: "He was my favourite player."

4:38 pm on 19 July 2023
Luke Metcalf of the Warriors scores a try. New Zealand Warriors v Dolphins, round 14 of the NRL Premiership at Go Media Stadium, Mt Smart, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 3 June 2023. Mandatory credit: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

Luke Metcalf got himself on the scoresheet in his side's 44-12 rout against the Sharks last weekend. Photo: Photosport

Warriors half Luke Metcalf grew up idolising Shaun Johnson.

He even snapped a photo with his idol in Sydney as a child, though Metcalf was too nervous to ask and his brother had to approach the Warriors star.

Fast-forward a decade and Metcalf is not only able to talk to his hero, but he has formed a potent partnership with Johnson in the halves.

"I hate to tell him but he was my favourite player when I was younger."

The 24-year-old vividly recalls watching Johnson's stunning solo effort against the Broncos in his debut season.

"There's always one I remember I think was 2011. I would have been like 11 or 12. That makes him sound old. So I like it. He got the ball and just step, step. Then there's the World Cup even though I'm Australian I was up at 2am watching that game when he scored the try against England."

As he watched in awe of Johnson's skill, the thought never occurred to Metcalf that he would one day be teaming up with him.

"I couldn't picture living in New Zealand when I was a kid living in Coffs Harbour. I didn't even picture myself leaving there and going to Sydney let alone coming here. So it's pretty cool. I actually sit back and think 10 year old me would be going crazy."

The pair were reunited while playing at Cronulla in 2021, years after first meeting.

Warriors' Shaun Johnson against the Sydney Roosters at Eden Park in 2013.

Luke Metcalf says he grew up idolising current teammate Shaun Johnson. Photo: photosport

"He played a game in Coffs Harbour when I was 12 and I've actually got a photo with him. I've been trying to find it, I've been ringing mum and dad because I wanted to get a comparison photo of us now but they can't find it so I'm filthy."

Metcalf said he is relishing his relationship with Johnson.

"I was with him at Cronulla so that was pretty cool to learn off him there and I'm still learning a lot off him now. He's always open minded. If you ask him a question, he'll spend two minutes with you talking about."

He said their onfield chemistry is getting stronger by the week.

"I feel like every game it's been getting better, he's obviously our general . So, he steers the ship but we're talking a lot off the field too. We watch a bit of video together and just talking about like when he reckons I should be getting my hands on the ball and when he thinks it's good time for me to chime in with him out the back. I feel I've gotten a better understanding and it excites me because I feel like it's gone good so far. So I don't know where it can end up."

Metcalf is quickly garnering a cult following of his own at Mount Smart.

"The whole city can sort of get behind you here. Like we're seeing now how everyone sort of feels like just it's one big community. Winning obviously helps, this is all I know so far so hopefully it stays like this. We've got a few home games to finish the year off, so hopefully we can keep keep packing out Mount Smart. That'd be pretty handy."

Luke Metcalf during a New Zealand One Warriors training session at Mt Smart No. 3 field, Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday 26 January 2023. Mandatory credit: Alan Lee / www.photosport.nz

Metcalf says his combination with Johnson is getting stronger each match. Photo: photosport

Metcalf will again partner Johnson in the halves this weekend as the Warriors host the Raiders in Auckland.

Second rower Marata Niukore and prop Bunty Afoa are back on deck for the round 21 clash with coach Andrew Webster leaving his backline unchanged.

The Warriors' 10-7 record has them in fifth spot on 26 points two behind the fourth-placed Raiders who had their third and final bye last weekend.

The Canberra match will be the first of three Friday night fixtures to finish the regular season which wraps up against the Dolphins in Brisbane on September 2.