Adam O'Brien accused of 'disrespectful' act towards Andrew Johns amid ugly NRL furore

Cooper and Matty Johns have both called out the Newcastle Knights coach.

Cooper and Matty Johns has accused Newcastle Knights coach Adam O'Brien of showing a lack of respect to Andrew Johns after dismissing the club legend's call to hand Will Pryce his NRL debut. The Knights went down 36-28 to the Melbourne Storm on Sunday, suffering back-to-back losses after a 32-2 thrashing at the hands of the Bulldogs the week before.

Prior to that the Knights had won four in a row, but they've now slipped to 13th on the ladder with six wins and seven losses. The club's halves situation has been a major talking point all season, with O'Brien shuffling his combination between Jackson Hastings, Jack Cogger and Tyson Gamble.

Andrew Johns and Adam O'Brien.
Adam O'Brien was very dismissive of Andrew Johns' comments about Will Pryce. Image: Getty

Gamble went down injured before their bye in Round 12, and Hastings and Cogger have failed to fire in recent weeks. After the loss to the Bulldogs, Knights legend Andrew Johns declared it was time to hand Pryce his debut after the club signed the Englishman in the off-season.

The 21-year-old Pryce can play in the halves or fullback, but has been biding his time in NSW Cup all season. The big concern is the youngster's defence, but Johns reckons he's worth rolling the dice on

Will Pryce.
Will Pryce in action for the Newcastle Knights in NSW Cup. Image: AAP

“They have to pull the trigger next week ... they have to make a decision because Cogger and Hastings have had no speed in the way they have played,” Johns said. “There is no strength or running threat, and all the movement and the passing has been sideways. They have to put Will Pryce in next week. There might be deficiencies in his game, but they have to do something.”

O'Brien was told of Johns' comments in his post-match press conference, and immediately shot them down. “I don’t want to make any knee jerk reactions now, although I did change the spine up earlier in the year a few times,” O’Brien said. “I think Will’s still learning the game out here to be honest. I don’t know how many games Joey has watched of NSW Cup, but he (Pryce) hasn’t had many back-to-back good ones.”

Dane Gagai looks on during Newcastle's loss to Melbourne Storm.
The Knights have suffered back-to-back losses to the Bulldogs and Storm. Image: Getty


The dismissive response from O'Brien raised a few eyebrows in the NRL world, with Johns' nephew Cooper not particularly impressed. “To mock his opinion in a post-match interview after they’d just been smacked by 30 points. Show a bit of damn respect," the former NRL player said last week.

Matty Johns, who is Cooper's father and Andrew's brother, added: "Me and Joey (Andrew) clash over a lot of things. Surprise. Surprise. [Andrew] said after the game, ‘It’s time to give Will Pryce a go’. Now, Will Pryce is a young player they got from England. He’s the son of Leon Pryce. His dad was a great player.

“Will’s a great runner of the football. He’s raw, but Joey said, ‘It’s time to give him an opportunity’. He plays in the halves. He can play fullback. I actually think they should give him a go at No. 14 (on the bench). And just give him a little bit of a taste of it.

“After the game, one of the journos asked Adam O’Brien, ‘Joey has said maybe you should think about giving Will Pryce a go’. And Adam O’Brien’s response wasn’t what I expected. He said, ‘Well I don’t know how many games of NSW Cup Joey watches, but’ - and it’s something he probably should have said to Will in private.

“Now listen, as I said before I can take the piss out of Joey as good as anyone, And I’m allowed to because we have the same blood pumping through our veins. But, Adam, it’s Joey Johns. The name’s on the grandstand. Heed the advice. When Andrew Johns talks, people listen. I mean, I don’t, but people listen.”

Interestingly, reports have emerged in recent months that Andrew Johns no longer works with the Knights as a halves consultant. The club legend has previously helped the team with their attack, but appears to have stepped back from the role.