Super 12 beckons Bill, Ben ... plateau men
By STEVE SPINKS
THEY excel in the same sport, they are the same age, they play with the same club, they went to the same school and they even share a surname ... but Bill and Ben Johnston are not brothers.
In fact, the Alstonville pair ? who played for Wollongbar in the Far North Coast Rugby first grade competition last season ? are not even distant relations.
Ben, 18, recently joined the ACT Brumbies Academy Under-19 squad after deciding to pursue rugby.
As reported by The Northern Star last year, Ben is also a talented cricketer, and was being pursued by a number of Sydney clubs.
However, the talented fullback decided to stick with rugby and has started training with the Brumbies.
Apparently, Johnston impressed Brumbies officials recently when he recorded the second fastest time over 40 metres in the club ? second only to Wallaby winger Clyde Rathbone.
Bill, 18, has headed north and joined the Gold Coast Breakers who won the Brisbane first grade competition last season.
The hooker has been included in the Queensland Reds Academy and is considered a possibility for the Breakers first or second grade team this season when regular rake, Tai McIsaac, is away on Super 12 duty with the Reds.
Both of the boys recently attended squad training for the Australian Under-19 team.
An initial squad of 45 were put through an arduous three-day camp in Sydney.
At the end of the camp the squad was whittled down to 35.
Unfortunately, Ben was one of the 10 who missed out. He was injured during the first day of the camp and was unable to participate further.
However, Bill made the cut and will now have to attend another camp in three weeks when the squad is cut to a final number of 28.
The Australian Under-19s will play in a mini-World Cup in South Africa later this season.
According to Bill's father, Eoin Johnston, who has also coached the boys, along with Dave Martin and Allen Eggins during their Wollongbar Rugby Club days, the Brumbies and the Reds are impressed with the Johnston boys.
"They're impressed, considering they haven't been in any representative programs," Mr Johnston said.
"It's great for Wollongbar to have two kids from one little country club in there with the heavy-weights. It's quite an achievement."
And there may be more following in the Johnstons' footsteps.
Second-rower Steve Mison and flanker Ben Coridas, who both attend Alstonville High, have been included in elite training squads after being spotted by Australian Rugby Union talent scouts.