NRC: Wallabies experience brings new level to Johnson Holmes' efforts for Eagles

by Emma Greenwood

Harry Johnson-Holmes describes it as a "new type of stimulus": having Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and captain Michael Hooper breathing down his neck as he battled to match it with the best players in Australia.

Pitched into the deep end to make his Test debut in South Africa as the Wallabies suffered a front-row injury crisis, Johnson-Holmes has suddenly found himself among Australia's rugby elite.

While he is not a part of the World Cup squad, Johnson-Holmes helped the Wallabies prepare for their Japanese odyssey in a stint he described a close to one of the hardest things he's ever done.

A part of the Wallabies pre-departure camp in New Caledonia, Johnson-Holmes has taken his game to another level and is keen to put his learnings into practice in the NRC with NSW Country.

Harry Johnson-Holmes is keen to take what he has learnt with the Wallabies and apply it with NSW Country in the NRC. Photo: Rugby AU/Stuart Walmsley

"All the camps we've been involved in this year have been tough - Sydney and Brisbane into the New Caledonia camp, all the ones I've been involved in - it's just very demanding around things like knowledge, taking in the new styles of cultures and how we want to play paired with some tough training sessions and some pretty tough things to do.

"I've only been on the Super Rugby circuit for two years now and I thought: 'This is it, this is how tough it is'.

"It's amazing the extra bits and pieces that go into the national team, especially the little things like effort.

"Training's always tough at the Tahs and even in NRC but when you've got Michael Cheika screaming at you and Michael Hooper yelling at you as well, it brings on a new type of stimulus.

"But it was incredible to be involved in it and it's cool to see what's expected if I do get another opportunity."

Come 2023, Johnson-Holmes may be a pack leader guiding another young buck.

Harry Johnson-Holmes in action against South Africa in his Test debut. Photo: Getty Images

For now though, he's grateful for the way veterans Scott Sio and James Slipper took him under their wing and helped develop his game.

"Scotty and Slips are great mentors for me, boys I've been watching for a few years now and they're the blokes I'm inspired to be in terms of what they've achieved and are continuing to achieve," he said.

"I was new into the camp and they were more than happy to give me tips and tricks and help me along the way.

"Things like scrums and lineouts, which is a big growth area for myself, there was plenty to take away and I'm stoked that there were boys like that to help out."

Johnson-Holmes will be one of those senior players for the Eagles in the NRC, as he showed on Saturday when he played a full match as NSW Country fought back to force a 24-24 draw with the Fijian Drua in Wollongong.


A proud Newcastle product, Johnson-Holmes is looking forward to representing the Eagles and had watched their opening two games - and those of Sydney - before running out in Round 3.

"I've actually managed to watch both NSW Country games and both Sydney games as well and I think they're playing a great brand of rugby," he said.

"NSW Country have got a great team and it looks like there's some characters as well based on the WhatsApp group I've been added to.

"It really encapsulates what NRC rugby's all about - throwing the ball around, a bit of champagne rugby and enjoying it.

"I'm pretty excited to be a part of it now, we'll start nutting out the specifics of how they want to play but for the most part it looks like they've already worked out how it is they want to be taking on the 2019 NRC season."

The unbeaten Eagles head to Queensland this weekend to take on Brisbane City on Sunday, kicking off at 4pm AEST.