FOR a man playing outside his preferred position, fly-half Chris Johnson is having quite a remarkable season.
The 21-year-old University of Huddersfield student has so far scored 274 points this term, and has been one of the chief architects in the Lockwood Park team’s drive to the play-offs in only his second season at the club.
Already a firm favourite at Huddersfield, it seems incredible to think Johnson joined the club only for the 2006-07 season when, in his first year at University he was made the team skipper and then persuaded to join the Lockwood Park set-up, by the then Uni coach Hamish Pratt, who at that time was also Huddersfield’s general manager.
“I’d played a handful of trial games for Leeds Tykes, but my University commitments meant I was unable to get over there for training, and Hamish suggested I join him down at Lockwood Park, since when I’ve never looked back,” said Johnson.
“I enjoyed last season, but this year’s been even better, and we are all pretty chuffed at getting to the play-offs.
“My preferred position really is outside centre, where I played most of my rugby when I was at Rochdale, but I think Damo (scrum half Damian Clayton) and I have now developed a pretty good understanding with each other.
“This season the pack have been fantastic, having been bulked up with the addition of Gavin Rhodes and Nick Sharpe, and that’s made a big difference, because it gives Damo more time to off-load to me, and in turn I have more time to decide how to play it among the backs.”
Johnson originally hails from Rochdale, which is where he is planning to go back and live with his dad when he finishes his four-year stint at University with a clutch of final exams for his Business management degree in May.
And it was while at Rochdale, where he began as a junior, that he cracked the club’s scoring record when he notched 297 points for his hometown club in 2005-06, beating the previous best set by the then current coach Mick Gould in the North II West division.
And the way he is going this year, he could well post a tally that will take some beating at Huddersfield, although no-one really knows what the current highest points-scoring tally is!
To date, Johnson has crossed the whitewash nine times, and his points tally also includes 49 penalties, 29 conversions and eight drop goals, several of which have proved crucial to Huddersfield winning a couple of their really tight encounters earlier in the season.
With three games remaining (two North League games and one play-off) the fly-half has set his sights on reaching the 300 mark, and he has also got leading try-scorer Mark Whitehead firmly in his sights.
“Whitey has so far touched down 11 times, just two more than me, but he hasn’t scored in the last three games which I’ve been giving him some stick over,” continued Johnson. “I’m hopeful we can now run up some points next week when we go to Westoe, because the victory at Sheffield last week has taken some of the pressure off us.
“Westoe are a good side, and we knew it would be very hard for us going up there if we still needed to win to ensure a play-off spot. But now we are guaranteed runners-up spot we can hopefully play more of an expansive game.
“Looking ahead to the play-offs, I think we’ll probably go into the match as slight favourites, particularly as we have such a good home record. But then you can never take anything for granted in what is a one-off game, and everything depends on who performs on the day.
“Although I intend going back to live in Rochdale, I’m committed to playing for Huddersfield again next season.
“The standard of coaching here is brilliant and so much more professional than anything I’ve experienced before, with our backs coach Neil Summers and director of rugby Mark Sowerby both having played at such a high standard earlier in their careers.
“We have a great team spirit going this season and the camaraderie among the players is tremendous, with the bulk of us socialising off the field as well.
“And with a great opportunity of going up and playing in the National League, I can’t wait for next season.”