Carlos Spencer lines up against Andrew Johns, from whom he stole a few tricks.

The attacking brilliance of Carlos Spencer is perhaps without peer, but the former All Black, Blues and Auckland rugby playmaker makes no secret that he used to borrow from Australian league immortal Andrew Johns' extensive bag of tricks.

Both are remembered as tremendous innovators in their respective codes, in glittering careers that ran parallel throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and the pair are looking forward to facing off in a goal-kicking contest at next weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines, at Spencer's old stamping ground, Eden Park.

Blessed with natural speed, athleticism and an outstanding skill-set, Spencer was forever producing jaw-dropping plays, but admits a memorable banana kick planned move employed by the Blues was named after its crafty inventor at the Newcastle Knights.

"I took it from Johnsie. We actually used to call that move 'Johnsie'," Spencer explained.


"I remember watching Andrew Johns and he was someone I admired immensely as a league player and I even picked up a couple of things off him to add to my game.

"He was a great ball carrier and loved to attack and someone who took the ball to the line and created stuff for guys around him, whether it was through a run, pass or kick.

"I'm looking forward to catching up with him again at the Nines and having a bit of fun."

Wisecracking Johns laments not having patented the banana kick and jokes about seeking remuneration from Spencer for plagiarising his intellectual property.

The two-time premiership winner used to marvel at Spencer's penchant for the razzle-dazzle and admits a desire to test himself against rugby players of his calibre saw him come close to switching codes.

"I'll have to put an invoice in for that," laughed Johns.

26 Jan, 2016 5:00am
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"I didn't watch too much union but I used to watch Carlos and the way he played. I have so much respect for him; he was an absolutely amazing player.

"For a time there I was thinking about switching codes and the big motivation was playing against guys like Carlos and Jonny Wilkinson.

"I remember that time he scored that 100-metre try against the Crusaders and he put the ball down in the corner and then drained the kick, and then waved to the crowd ... well, he didn't wave, he gave them the up-yours.

"It's one of the coolest things I've seen on the footy field, league or union."

Spencer is excited at the prospect of lining up another shot at goal at Eden Park, but is not entirely confident the league masses will embrace him as fondly as his legion of Auckland rugby fans.

He's also sceptical that he'll manage to replicate his best kicking efforts from years gone by, and says he'll approach the contest with trademark nonchalance.

"Being a league crowd it might be a bit different, especially because I'm coming up against a few leaguies, but I'm really looking forward to it," Spencer said. "I'm not too sure how that's going to go but it will be exciting. I'll just worry about it on the day. I'll just get out there and kick the thing."

Johns, a similarly revered figure at the Knights' home ground, Hunter Stadium, vowed he would lead the chorus of cheers in Spencer's honour, but fears he is in no shape to threaten for the goal-kicking title.

"They'll stand and bow to the great man, I know I will," said Johns.

"I never thought I'd grace Eden Park with rugby union royalty like Carlos.

"But I've been finished now for eight years and the only thing I've been kicking around is the occasional beer can."

The King and The Immortal Sideline kicks at the death

Carlos Spencer: Blues v Crusaders at Jade Stadium in 2004

The Blues were leading by two points in the 79th minute but were pinned on their own goal line by arch-rivals the Crusaders.

Spencer threw a looping pass across the face of the posts to put Joe Rokocoko into space and the winger evaded three defenders before finding No 6 Justin Collins in support. The rangy forward beat another would-be tackler before popping a one-handed pass to Spencer who raced away to seal the win, but not before enraging local fans by strolling out to the right corner to plant the ball down.

"The kick everyone talks about the most is probably the one against the Crusaders when we scored that length of the field try," recalled Spencer.

"Doing it against the Crusaders made it a bit more special. Walking it out to the corner probably upset them but then knocking the conversion over from the sideline made it even worse. There was really no pressure on that kick because we'd already won. I was just rubbing salt in the wound."

Andrew Johns: Knights v Dragons at EnergyAustralia Stadium in 2003

With the Knights trailing by four with less than two minutes left, a darting run from Johns dragged his team within 10m of the Dragons' goal line. On the next play, Newcastle five-eighth Kurt Gidley fired a long pass out to left wing Adam MacDougall who crossed in the corner to level the scores.

With time up on the clock, it was left to Johns to claim victory for his side and consign the Dragons to a heartbreaking 32-30 defeat.

"I kicked one against St George in the early 2000s a couple of days after Origin," Johns explained. "We scored right on the bell and I was absolutely out on my feet, I couldn't have played another minute and I drained one from the sideline after the siren to beat the Dragons.

"That was more out of self-preservation so I didn't have to play golden point. That's probably the one that stands out."