Former NRL star turned television host Matty Johns has confronted one of his fiercest rivals over the incident which sparked one of the biggest stars to walk away from the game.
Former rugby league and boxing champion Anthony Mundine recently sat down for a candid chat with the Fox League host as part of his new program Face to Face with Matty Johns, which premieres this week.
Johns also hopes to lock in troubled ex-NRL star Sam Burgess for his new show once his ongoing legal dramas are over.
While Mundine and Johns are good mates today, it wasn’t the case during their playing careers two decades ago.
Matty Johns (left) has opened up about his friendship with former bitter league rival Anthony Mundine (second left). They’re pictured with former Triple M Grill Team hosts Gus Worland and Mark Geyer
Mundine, then 25, abruptly walked out of the St George Illawarra Dragons midway through the 2000 season after he was snubbed by NSW Blues selectors for the State of Origin series.
Selectors opted for Johns in favour of flashy and outspoken playmaker Mundine, who played in all three Origin games 12 months earlier.
Mundine accused selectors of racism because of his Aboriginality and never played another rugby league game at the highest level.
The snub came just months after Mundine was overlooked for the 42-man Australian tour of England at the end of the 1999 season.
Fox league host Matty Johns (pictured with wife Trish) has opened up about his relationship with Anthony Mundine, who blamed Johns for him quitting rugby league in 2000.
Mundine ‘blamed’ Johns as the reason he gave the sport away and candidly admitted to the Fox League host that ‘after [Johns] got picked ahead of him, he just said ‘if that bloke’s getting picked ahead of me, I’ll give it away’.’
Johns concedes he used to be offended by Mundine’s claims but takes a different view.
‘Now I look back and I think ‘he’s probably got a point, but I don’t say that in the interview’,’ Johns told News Corp.
‘I do say: ‘Do you really think you were better than me? And it won’t surprise you to learn he said ‘yes’.’
Mundine was still miffed about missing out on the chance to wear the green and gold 15 years on.
‘Tell the people I was robbed of Australian Jersey! Chris Anderson said I never got picked cause of my off-field characteristics??? WTF? I never done nothing but spoke my mind and be confident,’ he told the Sunday Telegraph via text message in 2015.
‘That’s what made me leave league at my prime when Daley and Fittler were injured and everyone was saying here’s my chance … and they picked Matthew Johns!’
Anthony Mundine (pictured playing for the St George Dragons in 1998) was one of the biggest stars in rugby league in the 1990s until his abrupt exit midway through the 2000 season
Mundine and Johns buried the hatchet some time ago at an indigenous event in regional NSW.
‘Myself and Andrew (his brother) got invited to National Aboriginal Week in Wellington, Aaron Peterson and Christine Anu were there as well as a lot of Indigenous leaders,’ Johns told Triple M’s The Grill Team in late 2018.
‘I got to know Choc there. We became good mates from that time on, regardless of the rivalries, regardless of me being picked in front of him when at times I maybe shouldn’t have been.
‘We’ve always been good mates.’
Johns also admitted on air at the time that he ‘maybe shouldn’t have been’ selected over Mundine for the 2000 Origin series, which NSW won 3-0.
Johns was cautious about weighing into ongoing sagas surrounding former South Sydney Sam Burgess, who recently allegedly tested positive to cocaine and driving offences on the way to collect his two children from his ex-wife, Phoebe.
Matty Johns says he and former bitter rival Anthony Mundine (pictured) buried the hatchet some time ago and are now good mates
Matty Johns has extended an open invitation for a sit down interview with troubled NRL star Sam Burgess (pictured leaving court in February) once his ongoing legal drama sare over
The latest incident came three weeks after Burgess was found guilty of intimidating his former father-in-law Mitch Hooke outside the Hooke family home.
Johns revealed that he ‘sat down with Sam for an hour last year’ before the latest controversies unfolded.
‘I’m a mate of Sam’s and I don’t see myself as a bloke who knocks around with mugs. There’s a lot that’s been going on and everything, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about it,’ Johns said.
‘When it’s all over, if Sam would allow me to, I’d love to do an interview with [him].’
Johns has sat down with former Newcastle Knight teammate turned club boss Danny Buderus, former code-hopper Karmichael Hunt and NRL boss Peter V’landys for the program, which premieres on the eve of the 2021 season kick-off.
Face To Face with Matty Johns premieres this Wednesday at 7.30pm on Fox League.
Matty Johns (pictured) has sat down with some of the biggest names in rugby league for his new Fox Sports show