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Rookie Kiwi forward Braden Hamlin-Uele says the criticism being directed at Shaun Johnson is over the top and insists the star playmaker's teammates must shoulder their share of blame for last Friday's 26-4 loss to the Kangaroos.

Johnson struggled with his kicking game for much of the match in Wollongong, leading coach Michael Maguire to declare post-match that "we've seen Shaun perform and build pressure and tonight just wasn't his night. We've definitely got to look at that".

Hamlin-Uele jumped to the defence of his Sharks teammate on Monday and said Johnson can only do so much if the others around him aren't performing to the required level.

"Great halves need great forward packs to play off," Hamlin-Uele said.

"It all combines into one thing. We are the Kiwis, not the Shaun Johnsons.

"You can't really put all that pressure on to one person, there's another 16 blokes that take that field with him.

"We could have all helped each other out there and it would have made it easier on everyone, but to put a lot of pressure on one person is not right, because we were all bad in patches.

"Shaun is a freak and I am sure he will bounce back."

Match Highlights: Kangaroos v Kiwis

While captain Benji Marshall's spot at halfback appears to be safe, Maguire has the experienced Kieran Foran waiting in his wider squad should he choose to make a change ahead of Saturday's Eden Park clash with Great Britain.

The New Zealand playmakers spent much of Monday's field session practicing general play kicking, after failing to force a single repeat set against the Kangaroos.

Interchange forward Corey Harawira-Naera echoed Hamlin-Uele's defence of Johnson but added that the Kiwis' game management would have to improve drastically against the Lions.

"As as a team we were a bit disappointed with our kicking game and not putting the ball where we wanted to put it," Harawira-Naera said.

"We wanted to pin them down in their half but I think we only had a chance to do it two or three times throughout the game, and they put us on the line eight or nine times.

"If we can't do that and they're doing it to us then we make it hard for ourselves.

"It meant our big boys had to get behind the ball a bit further than their boys had to and it just fatigued us by the end of it."

Meanwhile, Harawira-Naera said he relished his 19 minutes on the field against the Kangaroos, even if it was in the unfamiliar role of middle forward.

Kiwis immediately shift their focus to Great Britain

The 24-year-old has been used almost exclusively as an edge back-rower so far in his NRL career but looks set to play in the middle against Great Britain after again training there on Monday.  

"I'm glad the coach chucked me on in the middle and emptied my tank… I didn't mind it when I got on there and got a bit busier," Harawira-Naera said.

"I think if he chucked me on the edge for that last 20 I probably would have got a bit bored because I would have been so excited.

"Hopefully he gets me on a bit earlier and I get a bit more game time.

"He was probably holding me back a little bit, I was getting a bit nervous, but once I got on there I was sweet."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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