Frank Johnson Medal History and Winners
- 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 - Brothers
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
- 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.