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York ARL in mourning over All Blacks’ Phil 'OJ' Johnson
10:38am Thursday 30th August 2012 in Sport
THE start of amateur rugby league’s winter season this weekend has been overshadowed by the tragic death of New Earswick All Blacks chairman Phil Johnson.
The All Blacks’ first and second teams were to kick off their Pennine League campaigns on Saturday but all of the club’s games – from open age to juniors – have been postponed as a mark of respect to the ultra-popular ‘OJ’. Their first game will now be at home to Westgate a week on Saturday.
The club are not making any comment until given permission by Johnson’s family but all at the White Rose Avenue outfit are understood to be devastated.
Johnson was chairman and open-age league secretary at All Blacks, and was also heavily involved in the York Ladies rugby league team, which had a base at White Rose Avenue.
As reported on The Press’ news pages today, Johnson is believed to have suffered a heart attack while on a plane to Turkey. Some of the All Blacks players found out when making the annual trip to the Challenge Cup final at Wembley on Saturday. All of York rugby league has been shocked by the news.
Heworth ARLC spokesman Ken Sykes said: “Our clubs haven’t been playing in the same leagues but I know he did a lot for them and they’re going to miss him. It’s terrible news.”
Andy Grant, first-team secretary at York Acorn, said: “It’s extremely sad news. Our main links were through York Ladies, who were based at New Earswick but played some of their games here. He was a great guy and a great amateur rugby league person in York.”
Ian Wilson, York City Knights general manager, said: “The club’s thoughts go out to his family and friends and everybody associated with New Earswick All Blacks at this difficult time.
“He did a lot for the All Blacks. Someone once described him as ‘Mr New Earswick’ with all the work he did. It’s a very sad loss and our thoughts are with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
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