Nambucca Roosters player Zac Johnson is selected for CRL U23 side

Zac Johnson is one of those ridiculously talented and yet incredibly humble blokes.

The Nambucca boy has just earned himself a place in the CRL State Under 23 side, making him the only North Coast player to make the cut.

The squad was announced at Camden’s Kirkham Park after the completion of the CRL Men’s Under-23’s Country Championship Final between the Monaro Colts and Northern Rivers.

The team will be heading to Brisbane in a showdown with the Defence Force lads before flying out to Papua New Guinea in October.

“It’s been a great Under-23’s Country Championships and I’m really excited by the talent that we’ve got at our disposal for the tour to Papua New Guinea,” Country U23’s coach Josh Cale said.

“Travelling to a country where rugby league is the national sport will be an amazing experience and we know we’re going to face some tough opposition.”

Zac shrugs when asked why he thinks he was selected.

“I don’t really rate myself, I just go out and play and have fun, I guess,” he said.

He said his Dad – an ex-footy legend – has always just encouraged him to go out and play his own game.

And he was shocked when he was told he’d been selected for State, especially considering his team, the North Coast Dolphins, had ended their regional run with an absolute hiding from Northern Rivers.

“I didn’t think any of us would have made it,” he said.

“When my manager from the Dolphins called me last Saturday and said ‘pack your bags, you made Country’, I said ‘F***! Are you serious?’ So yeah I was pretty excited when I found out.”

“I rang my parents who were at the RSL and told my Dad to have a beer for me ‘cos I just made the CRL team. And Mum put up this big status on Facebook – so yeah they’re pretty proud of me and what I’m achieving, I think.

“After the [Roosters] game on Saturday we went back to the Sands and all the boys started clapping and that. And I was like, ‘I’m not even late’ and they were like ‘Nah mate, you made the team’.”

Humble but full of talent

Humble but full of talent

He said that while his union days took him overseas, this is the furthest he’s ever achieved in league.

“I didn’t even know there was another level after the Dolphins,” he said.

The plucky centre is pretty excited about the chance to shine at a state level, while secretly harbouring hopes for a chance at the professional league one day.

“It’d be pretty good to get selected for a Sydney team, or Newcastle or the Gold Coast,” he said.

“Yeah, the Titans would be good. I go for them, mostly because of Preston Campbell.

“When I first started out playing footy I lived next door to his Aunty and Uncle and they introduced me to him.

“When he played for the Sharks, I went for the Sharks. When he played for the Panthers, I went for them. 

“When he moved to the Titans and then retired I thought, ‘nah, I’ll just stick with the Titans now’.

“He’s just a good player – like he’s real short and not built or anything but he just carves it up.

“When the Roosters folded for a year, I went and played for Sawtell, and the coach told me to think of someone and act like them on the field. Well I thought of Preston Campbell and I did really good that year, so yeah.”

He said he loves to get out there and run the ball, and if he’s armed himself with a side-step like Campbell’s, then Zac Johnson is destined for great things too.