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No Johns, no Knights, no worries – Best and worst sports bets ever

Article, Betting Strategies, Editorial, Featured | Article posted on June 6th, 2013

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No Johns, no Knights, no worries -

Best and worst sports bets ever



Every week, bookmaker and former Racing Post chief sports betting writer Mark Worwood takes you inside the wagering industry with tales of the best and worst bets of all time.



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Andrew Johns may not have the international profile of, say, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James but no professional sportsperson has ever had more impact on betting lines than the rugby league legend that Australians know simply as Joey.

There is a saying in sport that there is no such thing as a one-man team. Well, Johns disproved that time and time again during his 15-season career with Newcastle, the rugby league side that he inspired to two memorable premiership wins.

It was Johns that put through the kick that resulted in Darren Albert scoring Newcastle’s match-winning try in the 1997 title decider. And it was Johns who masterminded the upset of the 2001 season when the Knights defeated the supposedly unbeatable Parramatta team in the premiership match. The Eels had thrashed a Johns-less Newcastle 40-0 three months earlier. Johns, playing as only he could, steered the Knights to a shock 30-24 final triumph.

In May 2003, Newcastle was scheduled to play Melbourne on the road in Round Eight of the National Rugby League. The Knights had won four games in a row to occupy third place on the ladder, while the Storm had lost back-to-back matches to slide down to seventh. Initially, bookmakers could not split the teams, posting head-to-head odds but no handicap line.

News began filtering through that Johns would not play for Newcastle due to injury. It was time to have a punt and a lumpy one at that. Most Las Vegas odds setters will tell you that, in their pomp, Bryant’s presence was worth about five points to the Los Angeles Lakers and having James on the court was worth as many as 10 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Johns was worth even more to the Knights.

By the time that the official team sheets came through an hour before the game, Newcastle was a double-digit underdog following a sustained national and international gamble. No Johns, no Knights, thought punters and they emptied their wallets to bet on Melbourne storming to an easy victory.

Melbourne racked up 40 points before Newcastle got itself on the score sheet, with future Australia captain Cameron Smith hammering the final nail in the Johns-led away side’s coffin with just two minutes to go. The match ended in a 46-6 win for the Storm and a migraine headache for bookmakers all around the world. Punters, however, were rolling in cash.

The events of that night in Melbourne taught a lesson to bookmakers that they did not forget for the remainder of Johns’ playing career. Following the departure of Andrew’s older brother, Matthew, Newcastle became reliant on Joey. From the start of the 2001 National Rugby League campaign until a serious neck injury forced the retirement of the younger Johns in 2007, the Knights won 65.69 per cent of their games with him and lost 67.11% of their matches without him. The numbers speak for themselves.

So the next time that one of your mates says that there is no such thing as a one-man team, tell him or her that they are talking rubbish and cite the example of Newcastle and Johns, the greatest player in rugby league history.

Who do you think has been the most influential professional sportsperson in a team game?

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