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Cronulla Sharks playmaker Shaun Johnson.

Following a mixed start to his tenure at the Shire, hampered by injury and below-par form, Shaun Johnson is finding his feet and has been one of the Sharks’ best players over the past month – and his team-mates think his ubiquitous X factor is ready to explode.

His new club may have fallen agonisingly short against Penrith last Friday, but Johnson once again showed what he’s capable of and he still has the opportunity to lead the Sharks into the finals over the next month.

They sit ninth on the ladder, just one competition point outside the top eight, and need to win at least three of their four remaining games to qualify for the playoffs.

“He’s coming good at the right time of the season,” captain Paul Gallen tells Big League. “It’s not all on him because it’s a team game and we’re all responsible, but he’s one of the key players to help us reach the finals.

“Some people say he’s had a mixed year. I’m not too sure about that, I think he’s been good for us.”

It may have taken time for Johnson’s form to click, but halves partner Chad Townsend always expected him to succeed for the Sharks.

In fact, Townsend wanted his former team-mate at the Shire even before a contract had been drawn up – the duo had played alongside each other in the halves at the Warriors in 2014 and 2015.

“Things have changed a lot since we last played. We were only 23-24 when we were playing together at the Warriors. We’re obviously quite [a bit] older now and have a lot more experience,” he says.

“Both of us are much more mature now. There were times at the Warriors where he’d do things that were just out of this world, but my biggest strength is talking and getting a game plan on and organising.

“Shaun’s got the X factor and footwork and running game to tear teams apart. That’s how we want to play and hopefully that will give us the best chance of winning.”

To read more, pick up your Big League from all good newsagents, supermarkets, the ground or magsonline.com.au/big-league.