It’s not often that a modern NRL superstar comes out and says what he really thinks, especially when it’s highly self-critical.
But that’s what New Zealand Warriors five-eighth Shaun Johnson did this week in an interview I came across in the New Zealand Herald.
Returning from a badly broken ankle which torpedoed the Warriors 2015 season, Johnson is well aware of the criticism being levelled at him for his largely ineffectual start to the new season.
The Warriors are running last with the Roosters on the NRL table, winless after the first three rounds and Johnson, one of the code’s superstars, has hardly been sighted.
In the interview, the former Golden Boot winner was particularly hard on himself for failing to make an impression late in the home game against Melbourne Storm when the score was locked at 14-all.
“I’m pissed off again and frustrated,” Johnson said, “That game was there for us to take.
“The one point (a field goal) didn’t once cross my mind and it’s not until after you look back on it and go ‘hold on, there was five minutes to go and we had a set down on their line.’
“Me and the other halves, we’ve got to look at how we finish those games off. I’ve just got to figure out my own s**t and contribute better than I have been.
“There are opportunities I am missing. That’s up to me to fix. The boys are doing their job, they’re getting the ruck speed, the middle forwards are doing a terrific job and I’m not doing my role. I’ve got to find something . . .”
Well, if you listen closely, you just might hear a collective “hallelujah” wafting across The Tasman.
Johnson is the main man in the team, a magical player on his day who has speed and footwork like no other player in the game.
When he fires, the Warriors are almost impossible to stop. When he doesn’t, well, they simply stop.
I found it amazing that the thought of a field goal did not even cross Johnson’s mind when the scores were level and just five minutes to play against the Storm.
A one-pointer was certainly on Cooper Cronk’s mind and it duly came to make it 15-14 before a late runway try by Marika Koroibete sealed the deal for Melbourne.
The game showed a marked improvement in the Warriors’ 2016 form but the loss was the club’s 11th straight and patience is wearing thin in Kiwi-land.
The tough-talking Johnson gets the chance to expel his frustration when New Zealand takes on Newcastle at Mount Smart Stadium on Easter Monday afternoon.
I am keen to see what he produces. It was ‘Tragic’ Johnson last year and the Warriors will celebrate if ‘Magic’ Johnson re-surfaces.