Great story, aint no secret I think so..
WE all know he has an abundance of flair. But Warriors half Shaun Johnson is now proving he has the toughness and level head to go with it as he strives to be the leading halfback in the NRL.
And he has received the backing of the best Kiwi No.7 of them all, with Stacey Jones insisting the 23-year-old is now the complete package. Jones says toughness was the final piece of the Johnson puzzle and he now has all the tools to enter the realm of greats.
Johnson played with a groin strain in the Warriors’ 24-16 win against the Titans last Saturday and then battled through an ankle injury to steer his side to victory.
“He is definitely showing a new toughness and that completes the package,” Jones says.
“He has the ability to read the play, the speed, the flair. . . he could become one of the great halves.
“Let’s not forget he is still only 23 and his best footy is still ahead of him.
“I spoke to him last week and he was filthy on himself for not winning us the game against the Bulldogs in round 10. That shows the hard edge he has developed to his game.”
Johnson reveals how new coach Andrew McFadden, a former halfback himself in his NRL playing days, laid it on the line to him about what he expects from his chief playmaker.
“‘Cappy’ (McFadden) is straight to the point and he really gives it to me, which is what I need,” Johnson says.
“He understands that I am a different style of player to what he was, but he is getting the best out of me every week. He said he doesn’t expect me to score the flashy 100 metre tries or take intercepts. But he does expect me to be in every play in every game, and to play tough.
“You get a good indicator of how every NRL side is going by how the halfback is performing.
“I am getting there, and the team is really starting to find its feet.”
McFadden hails Johnson’s toughness and says the Kiwi Test half has taken his advice on board.
“Shaun didn’t have any training sessions until our last captain’s run, and for young players that can sometimes really put them off,” he says. “So to go out and perform like that against the Titans under duress was really special.
“Sometimes you have to play hurt, and it is good to see him doing that.
“Shaun gets judged on whether he scores tries and makes breaks. But we really focused on the simple things that make him a good player, which is getting his hands on the ball and finding ways to get into the game through basic things like support play . . . and just running when the team needs him to.
“On the back of that comes all the things that people love to see, but we just want a consistent effort from him each week.”
Johnson has made no secret of the fact he wants to be one of the great halfbacks and McFadden is backing him every step of the way.
“Shaun wants to be the best. He is determined to do that, and I want to help him get there,” McFadden says.
“He is a real student. He likes talking about halfback play and how to develop that. He is very skilful and talented, but he still needs that direction.”
Johnson insists playing through injury is a necessity for him if the Warriors are to reach their potential.
“I want to be out there every week with the boys, and be part of something that I think can be pretty special,” Johnson says. “No NRL player takes the field 100 per cent. It is just the nature of what is a really tough comp.
I didn’t have any needles. That probably would have made it worse.”
- JOEL GOULD & TONY ADAMS