Gunnedah local rugby talent Henry Johns is set to join Sydney Shute Shield club the Hunter Wildfires for the 2024 rugby union season, leaving the Gunnedah Red Devils in pursuit of experience with the Wildfires’ Colts side and performance program.

Johns will also attend university during his vigil, staying on campus at the University of Newcastle as he partners his studies with the rugby opportunity.

The Wildfires are one of 12 clubs that contest the Sydney Premier Shute Shield competition rugby union circuit and based out of the Newcastle city and suburban area, are the only club in the competition outside of Sydney’s metropolis.

Johns hasn’t signed a contract as such, but the Wildfires dangled the carrot in front of him to firstly participate in their Colts pre-season training schedule but crucially, offering any assistance towards his academic endeavours.

“They (Wildfires) gave me so much assistance in settling down, especially in ensuring I had accommodation and assistance with study when I need it,” Johns said.

“I’m very lucky to have the opportunity of the rugby to begin with but everything academically has fallen into place as well which is awesome.”

On the rugby front, the Wildfires Colts are training three times a week, both in the gym and on the track as Johns continues to familiarise himself with the new club.

He was particularly glowing of the people in the grades above, stating how inclusive the environment is in contrast to the larger Sydney clubs.

“I’m loving it so far, great bunch of blokes and coaching staff,” he said.

“All grades of all ages mingle together a lot and particularly opposed sessions and the like means we brush shoulders with the grades above us.”

John’s positive attitude is key to his initial success and having recently fully recovered from shoulder surgery, he is fully aware of what it takes to make an impact in a highly-skilled and pressure environment.

“Everyone has come here with a clean slate so it’s about ripping in and showing what you’re made of,” he said.

“Particularly on the professional side of things – how you come back and turn up ready to go the next day from a tough session the day before is critical.

“It tends to show your attitude and something I pride myself on being able to do.”

With pre-season well and truly in full swing, Johns is aiming to continue this positive attitude in the lead up to the competition start, where he will aim to confirm a starting position for the Wildfires Colts side which takes on powerhouse club Randwick on April 6 in Newcastle.

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