Gutted Johnson laments "rank" loss
An emotional Shaun Johnson described his team's final game of the year as "rank", as the Warriors fluffed their shot at finals football with a paltry 22-6 loss to Penrith on Sunday night.
The 2011 grand finalists were in control of their own destiny leading into the final game of the regular season, with a win all that was needed to secure a spot in next week's final series.
But the Warriors were humbled by a disciplined Panthers side that raced out to a 16-0 lead by halftime and were rarely threatened thereafter.
The deflated halfback couldn't even bring himself to talk about his chances of a Four Nations campaign with the Kiwis after the defeat, such was his frustration in the sheds.
"I'm disappointed. We underachieved. Pretty rank, really," Johnson told NRL.com post-game.
Asked to explain his team's lack of urgency, he said: "I don't know, I really don't know. I just know that you can't give a top four side like that the kind of ball like we did and expect to compete in the game.
"It's just frustrating. You put so much into it, work so hard, and to just have it all undone like that... it sucks."
The third-year pro refused to apportion any of their underachievement on their mid-season switch of coaches, explaining that they had recovered enough to hold their own fate in their hands.
The Warriors began the season 2-3 before Andrew McFadden took over from then-coach Matt Elliott and had the team in eighth spot heading into the final week of games.
"We had it in our own hands, didn't we? That was behind us," Johnson said of the change of coaches.
"We were here, we had a chance of playing finals footy and we blew it. Overall, it's still a disappointment, regardless of what happened at the start of the year."
Johnson said he was looking forward to an off-season under McFadden, and also praised team-mate Sam Tomkins for a strong debut season in the NRL despite coming under heavy scrutiny for much of the year in the local press.
"He copped a lot of pretty harsh criticism throughout the year. There was so much hype about him, they expected him to come out with a bang," Johnson said.
"It took a few weeks for him to find his feet, but I thought he was one of our best the whole year. Consistently, he fought every week, and those are the players you want to play with."
Johnson said he was keen on a mini-break before joining the Kiwis for the Four Nations campaign, where he hoped he would be joined by former skipper Benji Marshall.
"I think anyone who knows Benji knows he's a pretty confident person and you've got to have those people around," he said.
"I know for me, my first camp, 2012, he was massive for me. Whoever makes the side, you need those people around, people that can make you feel a part of the camp, regardless of how many games you've played. He's that type of person."