Johnson admits he needs to lift
Long before the negative tweets started coming his way, before the armchair experts lashed out in frustration, and even before his coach publicly criticised his performance, Shaun Johnson knew the season opener against the Knights in Newcastle wasn't his finest 80 minutes.
After leading 14-6 with less than 25 minutes remaining in the match the Warriors collapsed in ugly fashion, allowing the Knights to cross for three tries – one of which came when the hosts had a man in the sin bin – to win the game 24-14.
It was a clumsy team effort by the Warriors who came up with 30 missed tackles, 15 errors and a 68 per cent completion rate.
But the responsibility for failing to close the game out with an eight-point advantage fell largely on the Kiwi side's star halfback.
"As the playmaker I lost my composure, I lost control of the game," Johnson admitted mid-week.
"I know the boys felt frantic, we felt a bit panicked at times in that second half and if I had just stood up and said, 'Oi, calm down'... It's not hard to do, it's just recognising when to do it.
"That's what I didn't get right on the weekend. That's going to be my focus this week, making sure we take high-percentage plays.
"There were a lot of good things we did in that first half, the way we withstood the pressure we were put under.
"But on the flip side coming out in the second half and being pretty poor, just making basic errors was something that was pretty frustrating, and we sort of lost our way with it."
After leading the Kiwis to Four Nations success last year, and winning the Golden Boot as world player of the year in the process, the expectations around Johnson have reached new levels in New Zealand.
With that also comes increased criticism on the occasions when he is deemed to fall short, and last Saturday night even his coach Andrew McFadden couldn't hide those feelings, stating Johnson's performance was "obviously disappointing" and that with the game on the line in the final minutes he needed to come up with something better.
"I don't need other people to tell me that they are disappointed, I knew myself that I was disappointed in my own performance," Johnson said ahead of this week's clash against the Raiders at GIO Stadium.
"I see it, I read it, I get tweeted it, I get comments on Instagram posts; I am well aware of it.
"I didn't hear any of that when I went to the grand final in 2011 in 16 games. It's just all talk, it fluctuates.
"People are quick to pump you up and cut you down, it's just all part of it. If you want to take the good you have to take the bad.
"I didn't think I was the world's best player at the end of last year, and I don't think I am now.
"But do I think I am way off where I was last year? No, not at all.
"I think there were areas in my game on the weekend that I was doing a lot better than last year."
The attacking responsibility will fall a little less heavily on Johnson this Sunday at least, with English international Sam Tomkins returning from hamstring soreness which kept him out of last weekend.
In 2014 the fullback set up 13 tries, two more than Johnson, and was second only to Chad Townsend and Johnson in terms of touches of the football by a non-dummy half in the Warriors' side.
"He just gives us another dimension I suppose, he is a big talker for us," McFadden said of Tomkins.
"Losing him last weekend was a significant blow but he is ready to go and will give us an extra spark in attack.
"He is fine… we probably could have played him at a pinch [last weekend], but it was just too risky to put him out for 80 minutes."