Super League secrets revealed: ‘Livelihood and reputations at stake’

Chris Johns, future Melbourne Storm foundation CEO, was still a player at Brisbane Broncos when plans by News Limited to launch a rebel competition first surfaced in late 1994. The next year he forged a strong friendship with Lachlan Murdoch, the 23-year-old son of Rupert, who had been installed as general manager of News’ Queensland division.

The Broncos were the catalyst as an upheaval of rugby league gathered momentum and other clubs pledged their willingness to defect from the Australian Rugby League to a new league backed by Murdoch, despite threats of recrimination from the other media mogul in play, Kerry Packer, and the ARL.

Johns recalls the time when he and Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett were heading to Sydney for meeting with News, worried whether the Broncos would be “left holding the bucket” if the rebel league plans fell over and needed to know, from the top, how committed their potential paymasters were.

Livelihoods and reputations were at stake, at the whim of the Murdochs, and many were naturally nervous. So Johns called Lachlan Murdoch’s number at Queensland Newspapers to get an insider’s view of exactly where everyone stood. Told by his secretary Lachlan was overseas on travel, Johns said he needed to talk with him urgently and could he ask him to call if he could be contacted.

Within five minutes, the young Lachlan was on the line, from Rupert’s luxury yacht in the Mediterranean, and handed the phone to his media baron father. What was said next to Johns, the 30-year-old son of a publican, by one of the world’s most powerful men?

All will be revealed at the Queensland Annual Lunch on 7 September in Brisbane, when Johns will be one of several guests to talk about the extraordinary new world rugby league was thrust into as the game enter a territory that has never been since before or since.

Don’t miss out on the chance to hear both sides of the Super League war with special guests Chris Johns, Benny Elias and John Ribot – Book your tickets here!

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