Vale Ian Johnston

1928 – 1 February 2013

We pay tribute to Ian Johnston

Ian Johnston gave plenty to Rugby League in general and the Parramatta club in particular. He will certainly be missed by his family and many friends, both in Rugby League and throughout the general community. Ian grew up in the Newcastle area and played several matches with and against, Team of the Century fullback and Immortal, Clive Churchill.

Originally a fullback, Ian moved to five eighth as a teenager and was also an excellent centre. He joined Parramatta in 1948 and that season, partnered the great Vic Hey as the Eels halfback combination. The next year, he played the first of his three matches for NSW as outside centre. This was on a very muddy Sydney Cricket Ground on 18 June 1949 and NSW won 19-3. Ian had represented City Seconds  two weeks before this match in their 11-4 win over Country Seconds. Later that year he went to New Zealand with the Australian team, where he played his only Test at Wellington on 17 September 1949. The Kiwis won this match 26-21 but Ian landed three goals for Australia. The visitors played 10 matches in New Zealand, including two Tests and Ian scored eight tries and 12 goals for 48 points in his five games. The Australians won the second Test 31-10 to draw the series.

Ian was the first Parramatta player to play a Test for Australia and in 1951, he became the first Parramatta man to score 100 points in a season with 13 tries and 38 goals for 115 points. After five seasons with the Eels and several games as captain,  he went to Young as captain/coach for a fee of 300 pounds ($600) in 1953. He returned to Parramatta in 1954 but a dispute with President Jack Scullin after just five matches, saw him leave the club to captain/coach Coonamble. In 1955 he was Maitland’s captain/coach, but in 1956 came back to Sydney football when he signed with the Western Suburbs Magpies. He hit the ground running at Pratten Park with a strong Magpies team and was selected for the 1956 Kangaroos to tour England and France. On this tour he played nine games, scoring seven tries.  He had two seasons with Wests, playing 33 first grade games (15 tries), including the semi finals in both seasons. At Parramatta, he played 90 top grade games, collecting 272 points from 44 tries and 70 goals. Altogether he played 123 first grade games, scoring 59 tries and 70 goals for a total of 317 points. For Australia, he made 14 appearances, including his Test match and scored 75 points from 17 tries and 12 goals.

During his career, Ian had the distinction of representing Country Firsts against City Firsts in May 1954 and then three years later, played for City Firsts against Country Firsts.

In the early 1960s, Ian began coaching the Parramatta minor grades, taking the reserves to the semi finals in six of his seven seasons with them. In 1968 and 1969, he was Parramatta first grade coach and in 1970 he became a Parramatta Committee member, helping out wherever he could for the next 15 years. Elected to the Eels Board of Directors in 1986, Ian worked hard in this position for 11 successive seasons.

He was recognised for his long time service when he was elected to the Parramatta Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Men of League extend their deepest sympathies to Ian’s wife Mavis, his four children Denise, Sue, Michele and David, his six grandchildren and his great grandchild, as well as his wide cross section of friends.

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