Shaun Johnson’s brutal self assessment could ignite Warriors’ season

Tim Prentice Columnist

By Tim Prentice, Tim Prentice is a Roar Expert

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    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.

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • March 23rd 2016 @ 5:29am
      Chris Morrison said | March 23rd 2016 @ 5:29am | ! Report

      Sure hope so. He’s in my SuperCoach team ?

      • March 23rd 2016 @ 6:33am
        Womblat said | March 23rd 2016 @ 6:33am | ! Report

        Me too. I just love watching the new sport that pops up when he’s on fire.

    • March 23rd 2016 @ 6:59am
      maximillian said | March 23rd 2016 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      I remember when they put JT in the 6 jersey for the Cowboys & he didn’t quite have the same influence. Halves normally play left & right side but JT looked far better once he got the 7 jersey on his back again. Give Johnson the 7 jersey again & make him own this team. Move Robson to a secondary role at 6.

      • Columnist

        March 23rd 2016 @ 8:00am
        Tim Prentice said | March 23rd 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        The sooner that switch is made, the better, Maxi.
        He feels at home with the seven on his back, that’s when the sparks fly.
        I’m guessing Johnson is still getting things right in the head after suffering that major injury.
        He’s talking tough. That’s got to be a good sign. Look out Knights!

        • March 23rd 2016 @ 8:52am
          East Bound & Down said | March 23rd 2016 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Ya gotta question the thinking of s coach who makes such a pointless change in a team , it’s like entering your second best horse in a race so your best one doesn’t get injured .
          He’s always done his best work at 7 and now they’re directionless , maybe it’s due to his previous injury , sure , but maybe it’s coz he’s not really sure what to do and when to do it.

        • March 23rd 2016 @ 10:15am
          Big J said | March 23rd 2016 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          I agree I think that if Johnson is back at half back he be able to control his game more , his is also right In that the warriors had that game and let it go. Once things gel for the warriors they’ll again prove that they are formitable side and on their way to a well deserved maiden premership, go the warriors!!!!!?

        • Roar Guru

          March 23rd 2016 @ 8:47pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | March 23rd 2016 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

          The Road Runner needs his Coyote.

    • March 23rd 2016 @ 8:44am
      MAX said | March 23rd 2016 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      I predicted the Warriors would win 9 straight but miss the 8. They will beat the Knights at home
      but I do not think that will be the start of a 9 run. Anyone who can make GI look ordinary is
      ‘something else’ Until Watson and Doyle recruit two dominant forwards, a partner to
      to complement the Ferrari in #7 and play 80/80 the Warriors will not be playing finals.

      2016 will be another season wasted… and that is a sad thing for Rugby League.

      • Columnist

        March 23rd 2016 @ 8:58am
        Tim Prentice said | March 23rd 2016 @ 8:58am | ! Report

        Disagree Maxi. I think all of the ingredients are there this season but the Warriors have yet to learn that RL games go for 80 minutes.
        If the effort is put in for 80, they can achieve big things.
        Anything less, well …. We’ve seen it plenty of times.

        • March 23rd 2016 @ 3:04pm
          NateD said | March 23rd 2016 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

          I’m not buying this learn to play 80 minutes, they know and should have their fitness levels up to playing 90min+, sorry that’s a bad excuse (not having a go haha)

          I see periods where they drop off the D in the middle and teams start getting easy metres which is a real worry…

          Is Leuluai fit? I’d have him over Robson or even Lolohea! He has got the effort but so far not much attack..

          • Columnist

            March 23rd 2016 @ 3:21pm
            Tim Prentice said | March 23rd 2016 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

            It’s not only physcal fitness NateD. You’ve got to be mentally strong not to switch off in an 80 minute NRL game.
            Lapse for a minute or two and the other mob scores on you more often than not.

    • March 23rd 2016 @ 9:13am
      The eye said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      I really dont get how Shark rejects Johno W. Blake F. and Jeff R. are anywhere near this team..they’ve manacled themselves to an anchor there..also doesnt help when the ref penalises you for tackling too hard..the tackle was ‘against the spirit of the game’? Was that the official line ? I’m lost..

      • March 23rd 2016 @ 9:59am
        Gazzatron said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:59am | ! Report

        He just has to run the ball and back himself. There was a moment in the game last week where I was yelling at Johnson to run it because the inside defenders were lazy and all he needed to do was step inside and run through a huge gap but he passed it out instead. It might have been the play before the last try.
        On NRL 360 Geoff Toovey recommended Cherry Evans to just get tackled and I think Johnson needs to do the same.
        He’s probably the best runner in the game amd that’s all he needs to do.
        RUN IT SHAUN!!!!!!

    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2016 @ 9:26am
      Kaks said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Ben Ikin said something I completely agreed with last week on NRL 360 after a snippet of a DCE press conference was shown.

      Paul Kent was arguing saying that he wanted DCE to have has been more honest about his performances during the press conference, Ben Ikin rebutted saying that he couldnt care less by what a player says in a press conference, all that matters is what the player does on the pitch.

      Shaun Johnson being honest is great and all, but that’s not going to help the Warriors win games. I understand that he is frustrated with how he is playing, but sometimes it is better to say nothing to the public and work on your game with your teammates instead. He has added more pressure on himself with what he has said to the press.

      • Columnist

        March 23rd 2016 @ 9:41am
        Tim Prentice said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Well, at least we know that HE knows improvement is needed.
        A good start.

        • Roar Guru

          March 23rd 2016 @ 9:50am
          Kaks said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          Yes I get that, however did WE need to know that he thought that?

          I would much rather see a player do his talking on the pitch than to the press.

          • Columnist

            March 23rd 2016 @ 9:53am
            Tim Prentice said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:53am | ! Report

            Some athletes motivate themselves with public statements.
            To each his own. We’ll see how he fares on Monday.

            • Roar Guru

              March 23rd 2016 @ 9:55am
              Kaks said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:55am | ! Report

              Fair enough Tim, and we sure will!

          • March 23rd 2016 @ 11:25am
            zim said | March 23rd 2016 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Are you serious?
            As a fan I am desperate to know they are thinking that. It completely changes my outlook on games and I’m pretty sure it would make other fans get behind the club more.

            No reason they can’t be honest and then follow it up on the field. Peddling out the same PR rubbish just gets people frustrated.

            • Roar Guru

              March 23rd 2016 @ 11:34am
              Kaks said | March 23rd 2016 @ 11:34am | ! Report

              “As a fan I am desperate to know they are thinking that.”

              As a fan I couldnt care less what they think, I can tell if they give a crap or not based on their performance on the pitch.

              • March 23rd 2016 @ 3:08pm
                NateD said | March 23rd 2016 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                One thing that got me was Isaac Luke on the sidelines while game was playing and he had his head down in the phone. Bro, at least show the fans you are interested!

    • Roar Guru

      March 23rd 2016 @ 9:53am
      Ron Swanson said | March 23rd 2016 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Disagree KAKS, he is taking the pressure off the new guys in the side and taking ownership. By Johnson venting his frustrations publicly, the fans will back him and the side with far greater respect, as it show’s he actually gives a damn.

      It’s refreshing and they have improved every week since the 2nd half of the round 1 game. The number on his back is totally irrelevant. He started last season off very slowly as well. It could be a long afternoon for the Knights on Easter Monday.

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