Rugby star Johns to play for NSW

In a controversial move designed to attract public interest to the new form of domestic cricket, the New South Wales Cricket Board have announced that Andrew Johns will represent his state in two 20/20 matches this season.

Johns is a veteran rugby league star, considered one of the greatest ever Australian players, and currently plays for the Newcastle Knights in the NRL. In the off-season, he also plays fourth and fifth team grade cricket for local side Mereweather. A popular figure in Newcastle, it is hoped that Johns’ presence at the matches will attract public interest and spectators.

The 20/20 format is new to Australian domestic cricket, though it was trialed last season with some success, and New South Wales are treating the new form of the game as an opportunity to gain further support in the more traditional formats. While Cricket Australia have criticised the move and public reaction has been mixed, the NSWCB have defended it by citing precedent.

In 1960, rugby league player Reg Gasnier represented New South Wales against Fiji, in a match that also included Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson and other test stars. 46 years on, New South Wales are looking to repeat the act, but this time the matches will have full domestic 20/20 status, and are sanctioned by Cricket Australia.

Johns is by all reports an all-rounder of mediocre skills, averaging 16 in his last extensive season with the bat and taking 2 wickets. He will pad up for New South Wales against South Australia in his home town of Newcastle on the 7th of January, and again against Tasmania three days later at Telstra Stadium.

South Australian tearaway quick Shaun Tait has declared that while competition points are on the line, Andrew Johns will be “fair game”.

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