Cooper Johns a surprise halfback contender

Melbourne Storm could turn to some rugby league royalty as they attempt to nail down a halfback this NRL season, with teenager Cooper Johns a surprise contender.

The Storm rotated through three halfbacks last year, using Brodie Croft, who played in the grand final loss, as well as Jahrome Hughes and Ryley Jacks, as they sought to fill the hole created by Cooper Cronk’s departure.

Coach Craig Bellamy would like to settle on one player in the No.7 jersey this year to play alongside Cameron Munster in the halves.

“We thought in the circumstances we were in last year that we did what was best for the team with three guys filling that position but that’s not ideal,” Bellamy told AAP.

Bellamy said he’d been impressed by Johns, who is the youngest son of Newcastle great Matthew Johns, and nephew to eighth Immortal Andrew Johns. The 19-year-old played in the Storm’s under-20 side last year and also had seven matches for Storm feeder team Sunshine Coast Falcons.

“Cooper’s gone really well in our halves during the pre-season,” Bellamy said. “He’s got a lot of talent and a lot of skill and know-how about the game which is no surprise given the bloodline he’s come from.

“He’s really improved physically this year with his speed and his physical presence and we think at some stage he’s going to be a first-grader.”

Bellamy said young Johns’ football attributes were a mix of those of his father and uncle, although he is taller and leaner than them.

Despite Johns’ talents Bellamy said that Croft had been doing all he could during the pre-season to hold on to halfback role.