Sharks playmaker Shaun Johnson says his form is rarely as good or as bad as headlines tend to make out and hopes his impressive display in a drought-breaking win over the Cowboys didn't overshadow an improved team performance.
While Johnson dominated the highlights and headlines after producing two try assists and a line break in the crucial 16-14 victory, the five-eighth was reluctant to even discuss his own efforts post-game after finding himself the poster child for both the team's successes and failures since moving from the Warriors at the end of last year.
"I'm just happy with the team's performance – really happy that we were able to grind a game out and complete some sets and build some pressure," Johnson said.
"It's something we haven't done over the last month or so, so I'm just happy with that … I don't really want to be talking about people's expectation of me, it's team first, win or lose and that's the main message."
Johnson stressed he was more than happy to wear criticism and admitted he has deserved some at times this year, but felt there was an over-emphasis on both the positives and negatives of his own game.
"I've said it continuously… my mindset doesn't change from week to week, I look to come in here and try to be better, look to try and learn, try and correct my wrongs," he said.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Cowboys
"The game against Melbourne I thought I took a good step forward, the game against the Warriors I did some nice things and some things that were poor and again [against the Cowboys] I did some nice things and some things that were poor.
"For me it's never about the individual performance – never. Although people want to write about things and probably say 'Shaun Johnson played amazing tonight', blah blah blah, it shouldn't be like that. It should be 'Cronulla ground out a win finally' or 'they held the ball out of their own end'."
Johnson did however admit to being "a bit confused" about his role within the side at times this year.
"It's finding my feet and being consistent with it, not being in and out because my hammy's a bit tight or my groin's a bit tight or my back's a bit tight," he said.
"Just having a clear understanding of my role. Although people will say what they say, I don't think I've been going that bad, that's my honest assessment.
"I hope the headline [from the Cowboys game] is nothing to do with me to be honest. When we lose it shouldn't be about one person as well but I get I'm in a position where you wear that, you have to ride that, you're a key part of this machine that is trying to work.
"I understand that's part of it but I view it as, it's a team if you win and it's a team if you lose. It would be cool if that could be the headline."
Match: Sharks v Cowboys
Round 19 -
Venue: PointsBet Stadium, Sydney
Johnson also had a very pragmatic response to the seemingly endless criticism that he just needs to run the ball.
"People know what I can do. I'm very lucky that I can do things a lot of other halves in the game can't do but at the same time people have to remember that I'm a half," he said.
"People say 'oh he needs to run the ball, just run it, don't think about anything else, just run it, step and run'.
"It's like, well, I'm trying to manage a game here and trying to finish our sets well. I'm trying to do everything another half in the game [would do]. I'm doing things Chaddy is doing, we're talking on the field but if I don't run it's a bigger thing because people know I can run. I don't think it's unfair, it's people's expectation, they know what I can do and believe I can do it."