Frank Johnson Medal History and Winners

  1. The history of the Frank Johnson Medal

    As Rugby League began to reach a peak of achievement in the early `70s it was apparent that an award of significance was needed as the Darwin equivalent of the Rothmans Medal.
    As Rothmans Sport Foundation had been the first sponsor of the New South Wales Rugby League Coaching Panel and was responsible for Frank Johnson's inaugural coaching trip to Darwin, thought was given to honouring Rothmans with the Darwin Rothmans Medal. However it was the idea of ABC man Jon Davey, that both Sponsor and Coach would be suitably recognised by calling the Darwin Award the Frank Johnson Medal. Davey duly sold the idea to the ABC Management and as a consequence the first medal count was done live on ABC Television under the direction of David Nordsvann.


    Port Kembla is famous for the steel produced there but the coastal town also made a habit of churning out a number of international footballers such as Frank Johnson. Johnson first came to Sydney from Port Kembla in 1944 and linked up with St George. He had already built up a reputation as one of the best young players on the South Coast, making his senior debut at the tender age of 16 and winning Combined Country selection in 1940, 41 and 43. He stayed a season and a half with the Saints before returning to his hometown to again play with Port Kembla. In 1946 he was part of the first Southern Division team to ever beat Great Britain.

    He joined the Bluebags in 1947 and stayed there for eight years during which he played 117 games, all of them in first grade. A wily rake, Johnson was virtually unbeatable for the ball in his time in Sydney and his trademark headgear was never too far from the ball in open play. He represented NSW in 1947, and again the following year against both QLD and New Zealand. He was selected for the 1948 Kangaroo tour but sustained a serious leg injury in the match at Salford early on and only made seven appearances on tour.

    When a financial crisis erupted at Newtown in 1952 Johnson accepted a plea from Bill Buckley to take over the reins as captain-coach. In return for his efforts he was entitled to a double payment for the season, which netted him the princely sum of 120 Pounds. He acted as non-playing coach in 1953, although he was forced to fill in on occasions.

    He quit the game once more at the end of the season but his successor Col Geelan, desperate for a top ball winner to supply the club's legendary 1954 backline, persuaded him to do a Melba. He retired for good as a player after they were beaten by South Sydney in the Grand Final but was never been too far from the game since.

    In 1957 he coached Western Suburbs (Illawarra) to their first premiership win, and later had charge of Sydney University and the Northern Territory representative team. He was a founding member of the NSWRL Coaching Panel at its inception in 1962 and in 1982 was honoured with life membership of the NSWRL and received and Order of Australia Medal. He passed away in early 1993.
    Frank coached the Darwin and Northern Territory teams from 1970 through to 1975, for a quiet mild mannered man he was as tough as teak, he taught the territory players a trick or two in getting over the opposition in the scrum and on the paddock. Frank attended most medal nights when he could and presented the medal with a great deal of pride. He last attended the Frank Johnson Medal night in Darwin in 1991, where it was held at the old leagues club lawn area.
    Frank was one of nature's gentlemen and his dedication to rugby league at all levels was to be admired. He made many friends in Darwin and if ever Darwin teams were to travel to Sydney Frank always watched the games.

    The winners so far are:

    1973     Nungah Ah Mat    -  Brothers
    1974     Lionel Tewes      -   Nightcliff
    1975     Ron Nobbs     -       
    1976     Ernie Wanka     -    South Darwin
    1977     Brian Allia    -         RSL
    1978     Alan Bradbury      - Brothers
    1979     Dicky Whyte     -     Norths
    1980     Jack Ellison     -      RSL
    1981     Reggie Harrison     South Darwin
    1982     Kim Blackburn     -  Norths
    1983     Marcas Bader     -   Country
    1984     Marcus Bader     -   Country
    1985     Mark Manalos     -  Nightcliff
    1986     Peter Alley     -      Brothers
    1987     Ken Ritter     -       South Darwin
    1988     John Alder     -     Waratahs
    1989     Ken Reid     -        RSL
    1990     Alan Woodcock     -  South Darwin
    1991     Russel King     -    Casaurina
    1992     Damien Burg     -  South Darwin
                Anthony Matua     Litchfield
    1993     Karl Howard     -  Brothers
    1994     Derek Brady     -  Nightcliff
                Chris Cuthbertson     -  Brothers
    1995     Tui Lloyd     -  University
    1996     John Alder     -  Litchfield
    1997     Justin Eldershaw -  Nightcliff
    1998     Lance Bradley   -  Litchfield
    1999     Marty Ramage  -  Katherine
    2000     Kane Bonson    -  Nightcliff
    2001     Alec young     -     Nightcliff
    2002     Liam McEnereny -  Litchfield
    2003     Clint Storer        -  Litchfield
    2004     Daniel Keelan    -   South Darwin
    2005     Daniel Obodin    -  South Darwin
    2006     Marty Ramage   -   University                                   
    2007     Quinton Caird   -   Nightcliff
    2008     Aaron  Barnes  -  Litchfield
     /Chuck Norris - SouthDarwin       2009     Leon Rotumah - Brothers/ Mathew Johnson - Palmerston 
  2. 2010     Jesse Maclean - Nightcliff                                                                                                                                                                               




Darwin Rugby League pre Cyclone Tracey was the premier sport in Darwin's dry season.
Played at the Richardson Park, it was the showcase for Darwin's leading sports men along with a sprinkling of what were known as southerners, who trekked to the top end for one reason or another !!!!. A large contingent of local police officers played for the newly named South Darwin and were fair game for all.
Some clubs have survived past that period those being Brothers, Nightcliff and Souths, other clubs have, over the years changed names to become Litchfield ( Waratahs, Wallabies) University (Northern Suburbs, Tracey Village, Casuarina) Palmerston Raiders ( Top End Raiders, R.S.L ).
Every club over the years can boast to having champions in their team, and many of them truly were champions and it thrilled the crowds to watch these players in action, albeit as a tough hard running forward who never took a backward step or a side stepping centre that scored at any opportunity, but somewhere above all that, was a legend in his own right and deservedly the winner of the inaugural Frank Johnson Medal in 1973 -
William "Nungah" Ahmat played for Brothers in the early 70's and is a dual NT Representative player for both Australian Rules and Rugby League. He also has the unique distinction of being captain of premiership winning teams in both codes.

Representative Duties include:-
1970 - NT v Great Britian, NT v West Australia
NT v Mt Isa.
1972 - NT v West Australia
1973 - NT v Papua & New Guinea
1975 - NT v Brisbane
1967 - Darwin v Alice Springs
1971 - Darwin v West Australia
1975 - Darwin v Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennent Creek NT Championships
Darwin Rugby League Awards:
Highest Try Scorer 18 tries
Golden Boot 53 Goals
Most Points 160 pts

Nungah was the perfect sportsman, speed to burn, agility and perception not to mention his copy book tackles, this combined with a burning desire to succeed gave him the highest accolade in sport to be known as the best.
Frank Geddes OAM former Chairman of the Darwin Rugby League often stated that William"Nungah" Ahmat was the most complete sportsman he had ever seen
The Ahmat name in rugby league as with many other sports is famous. This season Nungah's son Mathew will be playing in the 2003 Grand Final for Nightcliff.



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