Adrian Paul Johnson
- 329Wallaby Number
Paul Johnson was an electric, running fly half who enjoyed a brief international rugby career in the immediate aftermath of World War II. A perpetual menace with excellent positional anticipation, Johnson was described as ‘the best attacking five eighth’ in the business and a ‘deadly tackler’.
He was educated at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill and played two years in the 1st XV, the second (1942) as captain. After graduation Johnson enrolled in Dentistry at the University of Sydney but chose to play his club rugby with Eastern Suburbs. That decision was rewarded when he made his first grade debut, at halfback, in the 0-5 grand final loss to Manly.
In 1944 Johnson and Randwick’s Brian Piper were politely encouraged to reassess their respective decisions to play rugby for a club other than University. Both took the hint and moved to University however it was a bittersweet moment for Johnson when his new club lost that year’s grand final 3-7 to Easts. All that was forgotten a year later when Johnson played a starring role as University defeated Easts in the semi-final and then ‘with perfect pivot work’ claimed the Shute Shield in their 11-3 victory over Parramatta.
In 1946, Johnson celebrated his New South Wales debut with three tries against Toowoomba. His performance justified the ‘hunch’ of State selectors to play him out one position at inside centre and he emerged from the match as a ‘certainty’ for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. Unfortunately Johnson suffered an untimely injury, a torn muscle in his right leg, just three weeks before the tours’ trials. He returned for the Australia XV v The Rest trial but left the field with a pulled left thigh muscle.
Despite his injuries Johnson was named in the touring side, started six of the opening eight matches including his Test debut in Dunedin. Johnson retired in 1947 to concentrate on his dental studies, a decision that effectively saw him relinquish the ‘strong chance’ he had of being chosen for the Third Wallaby tour to the U.K. and Europe. Johnson returned to rugby with Gordon in 1949, the year he was awarded his Bachelor of Dental Surgery, but his season ended when he dislocated his collarbone against St. George. A year later he moved to the country to take up a local dentist practice and in 1951 switched codes to play rugby league with Wauchope.
Johnson returned for one final fling at Sydney club rugby in 1955. Turning out for University, he played with much of his old class and led them to a third straight premiership - ironically at the expense of Gordon. Having little else to prove Johnson retired for the final time.
Paul Johnson played two Tests in a one-year international career.
Johnson won his first Test cap at inside centre in the 1st Test, 8-31 loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook. He retained his spot alongside Trevor Allan for the 0-20 loss to the Maori in Hamilton.