Johnson won't believe Warriors hype on eve of finals
Shaun Johnson isn’t one of those players who insist they don’t read what is written about them or switch off whenever their latest performance is critiqued on the TV or radio or any of the many other forms of media which scrutinise players in 2018.
It’s just that he’s learned to ignore it – even the good stuff.
The halfback did his best to explain at the club's media session on Monday when a reporter said his eye-catching performance in the 36-16 pounding of the Panthers had prompted Fox League analyst Greg Alexander to rate him the best No.7 in the Telstra Premiership.
"Geez, the week before I wasn’t," Johnson said with raised eyebrows, remembering the criticism he copped after the Warriors had been edged by Lachlan Lewis’s last-gasp drop goal for the Bulldogs the previous round.
It’s not that Johnson wasn’t quietly chuffed with Alexander’s salute. Few are more qualified to analyse a halfback that the legendary Penrith, Warriors, Blues and Kangaroos No.7 after all.
But the Warriors playmaker knows the only people who he really needs to answer to are "within our four walls at the Warriors".
"I’ve learnt just to worry about the things that matter which is the boys, the coaching staff and just improving each week," Johnson said.
"I mean, an example: the whole year I’ve been told to run the ball more and after the weekend [against the Panthers] I got told I was greedy and a ball hog. So do the math on that.
"There are weeks where there will be reports that I’m playing poorly or I’m quiet or I need to do stuff, when that’s not the case. Then there’ll be weeks where they’ll be pumping me up and I know that wasn’t the case either.
"So it’s sort of a bit all over my head. As long as I’m heading in the right direction, which I feel like I am…"
So too does coach Stephen Kearney, offering rare praise of Johnson after his efforts which included 12 points, 127 run metres and 22 tackles against the Panthers which sealed the Auckland club's first finals foray in seven seasons.
The reunited right-edge trio of Johnson, centre Peta Hiku and rangy second-rower Tohu Harris were influential against the Panthers and will get another shot against the Raiders with Kearney retaining the same starting 13 for Friday night with Hiku preferred over Gerard Beale who returns from a hamstring injury to the bench.
Johnson was among those to pay tribute to Simon Mannering who will play his 300th NRL match on Friday but knows the lock will only get the likely Mt Smart Stadium farewell he deserves if the Warriors front up against the Raiders.
"They’ve probably under-achieved this year but their squad and the way they’re playing now doesn’t warrant where they’re sitting on the table," Johnson said of Canberra who have seen off the Roosters and the Rabbitohs in the past fortnight.
"You’ve seen the sides they’ve come up against in the last couple of weeks and what they’ve done so it’s got to be preparation as normal for us this week. We can’t get complacent, we can’t get untidy in areas we’ve nailed over the last couple of weeks.
"It’s going to be a big challenge but what a way to celebrate Simon’s 300th and what could be our last game at home."