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Parramatta Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown.

Young Eels half Dylan Brown is receiving a priceless rugby league education under eighth Immortal Andrew Johns – despite never having watched the Knights legend play.

The 19-year-old was born in the year 2000, so he was just six when Johns officially hung up the boots in early 2007 but even then, it was years until the young Aucklander turned his attention from the 15-player code so universally popular in his homeland over to rugby league.

"Yeah, I didn't really watch league when I was younger," Brown admitted somewhat sheepishly.

"I always watched union. I started watching league when I was like 10 probably. There's been a few times like that where they've mentioned these legends, even from my own club, I still get embarrassed!"

But it's not like Brown wasn't aware of Johns's standing in the game when the dual premiership-winner and three-time Dally M Medallist first started attending Eels training to coach the squad's young playmakers.

Andrew Johns passes on tips to Dylan Brown and Eels teammates at training.
Andrew Johns passes on tips to Dylan Brown and Eels teammates at training. ©

"I still obviously know how significant of a person he is, he's an Immortal," Brown said.

"He still moves like he did in his highlights so it's pretty cool.

"Just how he is, when he walks in, got his sunnies on and looking all cool, it's not even sunny and he's got them on! He can still move, man.

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"For him to actually show us what to do helps so much more. The little things, he breaks it right down to the little things. A simple play, he breaks it right down and makes it so much easier. For me being a young and upcoming half it helps a lot."

Senior half Mitch Moses and hooker Reed Mahoney have also been soaking up lessons from Johns through the off-season, along with utility playmaker Jaeman Salmon and fullback Clint Gutherson.

"He's been good for me and during training I've been trying to work in some stuff that I've been working on with him and pretty much just stripped down how to play halfback," Moses said.

"I'm going to take a lot out of that because I've never really had a halves coach before. Being coached by one of the best to ever play the game in the halfback position is special and I definitely listen to whatever he says at training. Hopefully I can take it into the games and better my game."

While Johns is one of the finest No.7s to ever grace the field, he was also a stellar hooker at representative level with Mahoney particularly keen to take lessons in terms of his ball-playing and kicking games.

"He's been great for me," Mahoney said.

"Having him around and helping me out has helped me a lot with my ball playing and kicking game. All of us here will be picking his brain. We're going to stuff up things but you have to stuff up to learn. He's going to be great for us through the year."

Eels hooker Reed Mahoney.
Eels hooker Reed Mahoney. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

While Mahoney wants to develop his ball-playing, one key lesson has been around when to take control and when to service his halves.

"I've got to get a feel for the game but when you have Mitch Moses and Dyl on your left and right, when they want the ball you give it to them," he added.

"That's how you create a good spine, is when I know when to give it to the boys and when I can take control of the situation. If we can keep the spine together everything is going to gel a lot better."

For Brown, the steep learning curve of first grade rugby league has also included some harsh lessons around self-preservation, with his rookie season including a three-month layoff with a back injury.

"My main focus this year is for my back but it's good now," he added.

"[My goal is] playing round one to 25 and beyond. Hopefully keep the position as well, I've got to play good to stay in the team."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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