Johnson on fire as game 100 approaches
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson heads into his 100th Telstra Premiership game this Sunday confident he is playing as well, or better, than he has in any of the previous 99.
After being awarded the Golden Boot at the end of last year Johnson endured intense scrutiny to start 2015, as opposition teams directed more defence his way and cut down many of his attacking chances.
But over the past two months the 24-year-old playmaker has returned back to his attacking best, and in his three most recent outings has scored 46 points and made 20 tackle breaks, five line breaks and four try assists.
"At the start of the year when a lot of people were talking about my performance I knew that what I was doing was going to pay off, I knew I was heading in the right direction," Johnson said ahead of the Round 19 clash with the Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
"That hasn't changed just because it sort of clicked for me the last couple of games, it doesn't mean anything changes for me.
"[Coach Andrew McFadden] has helped massively, the style of plan he has put together for our side to play allows me to play my own game within that.
"I am a player that likes to play off instinct and opportunity and he hasn't set any hard structures in around what I do."
Reaching the 100-game mark is hardly rare these days in the NRL, but McFadden admits it feels as if Johnson has been around a lot longer than five seasons.
"It's a great milestone, I guess it feels like Shaun has been around a long time now," McFadden said.
"But 100 games is sort of where we mark the graduation of a first-grade player, and he's certainly developed into a first-class player.
"He's clearly doing a good job at the moment, his football over the last month has been very consistent.
"The way himself, Chad [Townsend] and Sam Tomkins have been really controlling the game is important."
Johnson's career to date has seen him play an NRL Grand Final, win the Four Nations with the Kiwis, and be judged as the best player in rugby league.
"As a kid from Whangaparaoa [a small coastal community about 25kms north of Auckland] I never would have thought I would have played 100 games in a competition like the NRL, and to have them all be for the Warriors is even more special," Johnson said.
"I really was just a kid [back in 2011], I look back on it and I was chubby and everything.
"I have got my family coming over [to Sydney], my little niece will be there, and it's going to be an awesome occasion for us."
Despite the impending milestone Johnson wasn't the most popular Warrior at the club's media session this week, as veteran hooker Nathan Friend continued to be the man of the moment following his summersault pass, which was picked up and shared by the likes of Sports Illustrated and awarded No.1 spot on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10.
"He's played 200-odd NRL games and this is the most active I have seen him on social media. He is riding the wave, 'Friendy', and doing it pretty well," Johnson laughed.
"Good on him, he has been a battler over his whole career and this is good for him I think, he has proved he does have that freakish ability."