Joey looking a little under the weather for his first class debut in Newcastle.
Joey looking a little under the weather for his first class debut in Newcastle.

Untold story of Joey’s cricket Blues bender

THIRTEEN years after polarising the cricket world by playing a game for NSW, a secret story has emerged about how Andrew Johns did it all on half an hour's sleep.

Johns has reluctantly turned down an invitation from Cricket Australia to play in the celebrity Bushfire Bash charity extravaganza at the SCG after suffering a neck injury on holidays over the summer.

No one is more disappointed that he's been robbed a chance at cricketing redemption than Big Bash star Dan Christian, who was a young Blues player when Johns was controversially invited to play state cricket in 2007, and has never been able to live down the fact he dropped a sitter that robbed the league legend of what would have been his only top-class wicket.

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However, neck injury notwithstanding, Christian is unsure Johns could have presented in shabbier shape than he was in for one of his two Twenty20 appearances for NSW.

Christian revealed Johns turned up to play South Australia in Newcastle with just half an hour's sleep under his belt, following NRL teammate Danny Buderus' wedding the night before.

"A couple of us ran into him at the service station on the way up and he told us he'd been out at Buderus' wedding all night and was nervous and a little bit under the weather. It was pretty funny. We knew it was going to be a good day," Christian said.

"Danny Buderus put something on Instagram the other day about his wedding anniversary and Joey put something up there that was quite funny (about only having half an hour's sleep)."

Andrew Johns bowling to Darren Lehmann.
Andrew Johns bowling to Darren Lehmann.

However, Christian admits that watching Johns battle through a hangover while playing a completely foreign sport stopped being funny when he spilt a catch on the fence.

Johns hasn't forgotten about it, writing to Christian the other day: "Thanks again for dropping that catch."

Christian was hoping the Bushfire Bash could have presented a chance for him to make it up to Johns after all these years, but it wasn't to be - although Johns says his neck injury is not serious.

"He had a bowl and I was out at deep mid-wicket and he was bowling at Ryan Harris (for South Australia), and Ryan Harris hit it straight down my throat in front of the Newcastle crowd and I dropped it," said Christian.

Andrew Johns raises his bat after scoring his first first-class run.
Andrew Johns raises his bat after scoring his first first-class run.

"I can't remember what I said. I didn't think he'd remember it, but he does. It would have been his one and only wicket, and I cost him."

Fellow NRL great Brad Fittler will - weather permitting - fly the flag for rugby league at the Bushfire Bash, which will feature cricketing royalty Brian Lara, Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist.

The cricket field isn't the only place where Christian has rubbed shoulders with league greats - he was a talented schoolboy footballer for St Gregory's at Campbelltown playing alongside Ryan Hoffman and against the likes of and Jamie Lyon.

Dan Christian (third row, second from left) played with Ryan Hoffman (above Christian) at St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown.
Dan Christian (third row, second from left) played with Ryan Hoffman (above Christian) at St Gregory’s College, Campbelltown.

In his last match of rugby league in 2000, Christian won the Nutri Grain Cup for St Greg's in the curtain raiser to Johns' Newcastle taking on Fittler's Roosters at the SFS. But he doesn't remember any of it, because he copped a knee from Australian international and NSW Origin stalwart Anthony Tupou after five minutes.

"I flew up out of the line to try and put a shot on him, and he just crunched me," Christian recalls.

"I got my head in the wrong spot and ended up collecting Tupou's knee. And that was it. I got knocked out five minutes in and sat on the bench the rest of the game and don't remember it.

"I was a five-eighth and played Harold Matthews Cup and SG Ball for Western Suburbs. I probably liked footy more than cricket but I was better at cricket. So it was a pretty easy decision for me."



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