Andrew Johns was asked by The Age to chat up Ponte Preta boss Happy Badger, and no, not in that way! They met in Townsville, at 1300SMILES, and whilst the Billy Goat players were running through some video footage in preparation for their critical next match at Raymond Terrace, Johns asked some questions, and got some answers, but not always in the way he expected: Q: Nine games in, you've gone 8-1, and are guaranteed at least the seven seed position for the playoffs - what has surprised you about coming back to RLSIM life? A: Quite honestly, winning that looks so easy - only perhaps two of the eight games we won since I arrived were easy, and even beating Quahog Quagmires and Roma Vandali, I was taking absolutely nothing for granted. The first game, against then NZ Churr Brothers, I only had time to evaluate and approve the then-assistant's game plan, and that turned out to work well. Next, Mua Saints - that was in some ways better, and some ways worse than I expected. I discounted the Churr Brothers' result, knowing Mua would present a stern test. And in the first half, we did well. In the second half, Saints stepped it up a gear for ten minutes that we didn't respond to quickly enough, and just like that, the game was effectively over. What I emphasised to my players was this - yes, I know that saying "play the full eighty" is not ever entirely possible, all teams will lapse for a few minutes. But, first, when you sense the lapse coming, do whatever you must to break the lapse, even if you risk a sinbinning to do it. Second, two sides play league at once - the Saints played very well for longer than we did, and especially in those ten minutes - but, we MUST forget that bad patch, and drive forward, try to win anyway, until the clock expires. Then we had the two trips to China in three weeks, Grapes of Nanking and Shenzen Sharkitohs, sandwiched in between was Machu Picchu Llamas. Looking at my man-management and my tactics, I found that they needed a bit of tweaking, but were sound - the Mua game was a large part due to Mua's quality, and I defy any other team in the league to do well against those Saints' ten minutes of the second half. And, despite all the off-the-field crap we had to deal with, I really thought we were going to do well, and split the China games...beating both, especially the Sharkitohs, was quite the shock to me. To my surprise and joy, it didn't surprise my players one whit. Q: Beating Sydney Vipers had to be special, no? A: Quite honestly, no more than any other game since the trip to Nanking - for us to make the playoffs from where we were when I arrived, we had to win a lot of tough games. The way we played in Sydney, though, that was quite gratifying to see how we saw off the Vipers' challenge to us late in that game. Q: And Brisbane Bulls? I thought you were going to play that game in Wolverhampton? A: Actually, I wanted to host them in a hostile environment, and certainly, all the ESL Bradfordians coming to Molineux would have served that purpose quite nicely. However, playing Raymond Terrace immediately after, being in Australia was a good idea, and thus, Townsville was the obvious choice. I wanted to move to Estadio Moises Lucarelli immediately, but the Ponte Preta management were not quite ready for us to play yet, and how could I argue with them, since they have spent over A$7 million on stadium enhancements so we could play there properly and comfortably, including giving us, and the football side as well, the best sheds anywhere on Earth? Q: But the Powerpuff Girls? REALLY?!?! A: Think about it - we want girls to play rugby league, or any other athletic endeavour that they dream of doing, and it gets the young girls to a match, and they have fun with the Powerpuff Girls, and they get to see some great rugby league, and then, they got to see some very good young girls play rugby league, and they can say to their parents, "I want to do this!" And their parents can see that it's safer for their girls to play league than they think, and they will know that if their daughters can succeed at league, they can take care of themselves anywhere in the world, in any situation, and be confident in themselves. We handed out about three thousand Ponte Preta shirts to young girls that day, it cost us, including the concessionary ticket prices, well over A$350,000, but it was well worth it, even if not one of those girls follow the Billy Goats, but follow Celtic, or Sharkitohs, or Bulls, they are hooked on league, and it's all good... ...especially as we're going to try to develop a ladies' side at Ponte Preta as soon as we can get numbers to do so. Q: Last question - how will you handle Chris Walker-Bush's New England Celtic juggernaut? A: Whoa, Nellie! First, a trip to the Tanks is in order, and they will be absolutely desperate for those two points, and we won't have John Bateman until possibly the Grand Final, if we get that far, so I am going to have to do some shuffling of micro-tactics. Then, if Sydney Vipers and Grapes of Nanking both win, and Celtic clinch the Minor Premiership, our game will be effectively a dead rubber, and since we can't play until the Grand Final, I think, I have to wonder if Chris will prepare for the next game, max-resting some of his key players. I expect that I will do so as well, in that event. But, the one thing I have learned this season is this - beating a great team requires that one worry about what one does oneself, and not what the opponent does. I have an idea that Chris won't change much in his tactics, as he's confident, and rightly so, that they work. And my tactics, well, they have been working too...so even if we have five different players each than normally in our seventeen, we should have a pretty good game, come what may.