Colin Johns was recruited from St. Giles Football Club in the Church Association. He was then described as a player who, “Has height and pace and plays in defence.” ( The Register 20/4/1928) His opportunity to play league came on May 5th due to the late withdrawal of Williams with an ankle injury. “Johns at Full Back played a first class game,” reported The Mail (5/5/1928). Consequently he retained his position in the side but on a half back flank.
He played with great consistency but his fledgling career hit a big hurdle, when in early July he was diagnosed with pleurisy. Colin was unable to play or train until September. He was selected against South Adelaide in the last game prior to finals. Amazingly he was named in his side’s best and played in the 1928 final series, which disappointingly ended with defeat to Port Adelaide in the Grand Final.
In 1929 he became part of one of Norwood’s greatest ever backlines that included Scott, Ackland and Siggins, all of whom represented the State.
Ill fortune struck just prior to the final series when he sustained a leg injury against Sturt. He battled to regain form and fitness but had to contend with being 19th man in the Redleg’s Premiership team.
Johns regained his position in the starting 18 in 1930. Late in the season regular full back, Ackland, was injured. Johns reverted to full back and soon gained a reputation as one of the competition's best. He was adjudged the outstanding player in the 1930 Grand Final when a Norwood side deprived of Scott, Lill and Ackland, through injury, fell just three points short of defeating Port. Many on that day describing this as one of Norwood’s most courageous efforts.
1931 was a tumultuous year for Norwood. Lill was appointed Captain-Coach. Prior to the season starting he further damaged an already suspect knee and was forced to withdraw his services. Wadham, initially appointed the Vice-Captain, took up the reigns. Later after a game against North Adelaide, Wadham announced his retirement from football. Wacka Scott was now the coach and in early August Colin Johns was appointed the new Captain of Norwood. Johns most certainly led by example as vindicated by him winning the club’s best and fairest Award at season’s end.
In 1932 it was thought that Scott would return as a player and assume the captaincy, however he decided against it and Colin Johns was reappointed Captain. This was to be Johns’ last season but it was far from uneventful.
Colin soon emerged as the State's outstanding full back or to use the contemporary term, goalkeeper. As such he was chosen in the State team to play Victoria in Melbourne. Surprisingly, this article appeared in The News (2/6/1932): “ C. Johns, the Norwood Goalkeeper, said today that he would not be available to go to Melbourne with the State side.”
His last and most dramatic game came against Sturt in a semi-final. This is an extract from The Mail (24/9/32). “ I don’t know how he stayed on the field, said Dr H E Dunstone of St Peters after he had X-Rayed Johns’ injuries. His collarbone is cracked but not broken right through and the first rib has been separated from the cartilage. Right from the first few minutes of the game, when he sustained the injuries, throughout the first half Johns enduring great pain stuck to his task between the posts. When he went back to the dressing room for the long interval he was in agony. It took a lot of persuasion to keep him from taking his place again. He remained at the oval to see his side gradually but surely slip further back against Sturt.”
A remarkable career of a remarkable man.
B Ridge March 2016