MATT JOHNSON is enjoying being a part of YMCA’s successful Championship challenge this season.
After making the summer move from Lockwood Park, following brother Chris’ departure, Johnson has been a regular fixture at full-back and is loving the change of scenery as well as the new challenge.
“I’m good friends with former Huddersfield player Mark Whitehead who is now the captain at YMCA, and he was saying positive things about the club and what they are trying to achieve at Laund Hill,” said Johnson.
“Last year I was captain of the Seconds at Huddersfield, but was getting limited chances of first team rugby, and when our Chris left to go to Fylde, I fancied a change.
“I’m 30 now, and wanted to test myself and give myself a new challenge, and so far it’s been brilliant.
“As well as Whitey, I knew quite a few of the lads from my time at Huddersfield like Damian Clayton, who had taken a year out but like me wanted a fresh challenge, Tom Sharrock, Adam Ryder and Gavin Stead, with whom I’ve played Sevens rugby. And I’m really enjoying the new experience.”
Like brother Chris, Matt began his rugby career with Rochdale and played both rugby and soccer while growing up, before studies took over and he drifted out of rugby for several years.
“I only started playing again at the age of 25 when Chris persuaded me to join him down at Huddersfield,” continued Johnson, who is an accountant and now lives in Leeds with his girlfriend.
“I always played at either No10 or in the centres as a youngster, and while at Huddersfield I was at centre or full-back. But Ryder and Ed Barber are both outstanding centres at YMCA and complement each other really well, so I was asked to go in at full-back. For the most part it’s a very young team, many of whom have played together all through the junior system which helps make it such a tight-knit club. Everyone socialises together and there is such a great team spirit here with such a great set-up.
“We’re not the biggest side in the League but we never get pushed around, and when we have lost, it’s been by less than a score.
“There have been times when we’ve taken teams apart, but overall I’ve been surprised by how high the standard is in Yorkshire I. Even the teams at the bottom of the table have big packs, and a lot of the teams have lads who have played at a much higher level during their careers.”
Like everyone else at Laund Hill, no-one is mentioning the ‘P-word’ (promotion), and like the coaching staff Johnson is philosophical about his side’s chances.
“We are where we want to be at this point of the season, but there’s a lot of big trips to come,” he added.
“No-one is getting too excited yet.
“We have some really difficult trips to York, Scarborough, North Ribblesdale and Driffield at the end of the season, and that one is going to be really tough as they play the same sort of fast, open game as we like to do.
“So we’ll see how things go, but I’m really enjoying my rugby and things are going well at the YM.
“But I’ve still got a lot of friends down at Huddersfield, and really do hope they can turn things round. They worked really hard to get into the National League and deserve to keep their place in the division.”