Vale Brian

I learned this week of the death of Brian Johnson.
Brian was 59.
We met when I was at the Australian Institute of Sport. Brian was the founding head coach of the Rugby League program at the Institute.
He had an enormous impact on my thinking about coaching. I was fascinated by his technical and tactical understanding of the game. He was a remarkable coach of young athletes.
I enjoyed our conversations about coaching and life when he let his guard down and we talked about philosophy.
In his time at the AIS he assembled a remarkable coaching staff around of him. In his absence we talked in whispered voices about his vision and clarity. We shared our awe of him.
I learned from him too the advantages of plain, honest speaking … as well as the power of non-verbal communication.
I did try to tell him how much he had helped me but he usually brushed this off with some of his straightforward speaking.
However, there were moments, when I distracted him with conversations about Warrington, that he almost accepted praise.
I was very fortunate that our paths crossed. I am the better for our meeting and at a loss at his death. Vale.

Photo Credits

Twitter picture shared by Craig Walton.
AIS Rugby League News 2010.
Twitter picture shared by The Dragons.


Roy Masters has writing a beautiful tribute to Brian in The Sydney Morning Herald (18 January).


  1. I spent many hours discussing complex systems and strategies of play through a project we worked on intermittently for a couple of years. It was more than a year before I discovered he used to play rugby league himself, and at that point I was able to joke with him about things he never achieved, without him ever letting on what he actually had achieved. Its only through reading people’s memories of him on social media that I’ve discovered the respect in which he his held. I just knew him a slightly gruff guy I liked.
    I learned of Brian’s death while at the AIS, where someone I was with noticed that the flags on the flagpoles, while not exactly at half-mast, were certainly not at the top. After some research we discovered the sad news.
    I don’t know for sure the reason for the flags to be low, but it certainly seemed fitting.


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