Shaun Johnson can relate to the hype surrounding promising Wests Tigers rookie Luke Brooks. Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos.

Johnson ready for Brooks showdown

Shaun Johnson and Luke Brooks have plenty in common. According to their official club websites both stand at 179cm, tip the scales at 89kg and play with the number 7 on their backs.

It doesn't stop there.

Both have carried the weight of expectation which comes from being compared to a legend of the game, all before they even had the chance to play five NRL matches themselves.

Coming through the National Youth Competition Johnson was identified by media and fans alike as the next Stacey Jones, while Brooks continues to be hailed as the future Andrew Johns.

"I think he is probably just like I was, thinking it's just a buzz to be playing NRL and taking each week as it comes," Johnson said of his opposite number for Saturday's Warriors v Tigers clash at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

 "Watching him over the first few rounds he has handled it really well, he has done all his talking with his performances."

Johnson, 23, has weathered the storm for the most part and dodged the pitfalls of those unreasonable comparisons.

With 65 NRL games and eight Tests for New Zealand now under his belt he has earned the right to be judged against his own feats, as opposed to that of the great who went before him.

"I think you can ignore it [the comparison to Jones]... a lot of people talk it up to be a lot bigger than it is," Johnson said.

"It is always nice to hear those sorts of things and it does well for the ego, but when you are training and playing it's nowhere near the forefront of your mind.

"As a person I wasn't sitting there thinking 'oh now I have to be as good as Stacey Jones'. I would say it's the same for Brooks too."

The Tigers represent a number of challenges for the Warriors. Not least their aggressive style which saw them run over competition heavyweights the Rabbitohs last week.

And Warriors mentor Matt Elliott can't hide his admiration for Brooks, predicting the 19-year-old to be a "long-term high quality halfback".

"The good thing about him is that he plays direct and is not scared of getting tackled. Souths ran monsters at him and he aimed up," Elliott said.

"It's all OK being very talented, but the NRL has a pre-requisite of being tough as well. At the moment he is ticking both boxes."

Johnson played his best game of the season in last week's victory over the Cowboys, with three tackle breaks and 111 running metres. But his role has changed this year since the arrival of Sam Tomkins.

The England international fullback has handled the ball the same number of times as Johnson over the past two weeks, and in Round 1 got his hands on the pill 48 times as opposed to his halfback's 35.

The reduced role on the ball has seen Johnson's NRL Fantasy value drop, with his 44-point average so far this season down on last year's 50.

http://fantasy.nrl.com/

"Reflecting on the game on the weekend I think I had one of my better games in the NRL.

"I thought my kicking game has been where I want it to be and my defence is improving as well.

"I just want to run the ball a bit more, that's a big aspect, understanding when the best time to run is."

Statistics show that Johnson has been the safer of the two halves so far in 2014, with only six missed tackles compared to Brooks's 15. But the Tiger has been more deadly with ball in hand, particularly in setting up points, with four try assists to Johnson's one.