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With a decade-old back complaint feeling the best it has for some time, Cronulla star Shaun Johnson has been able to focus on goal-kicking once again.

Throughout 2019, Johnson had quadriceps and hamstring issues stemming from an injury first suffered in 2010.

The brilliant five-eighth, who missed seven matches in a campaign that ended in the first week of the finals, needed cortisone injections after opting against surgery.

"They spoke about shaving [the disc] and all this but that meant I was out for the year and that was going to be heavy," Johnson said.

"I actually had it 2010, I did it in the captain's run before our Toyota Cup grand final [for the Warriors].

"And then I missed the pre-season in 2011 when I debuted and sort of managed it, then every now and then it would just flare up. It was a pretty bad one last year."

Sharks star Shaun Johnson.
Sharks star Shaun Johnson. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Johnson has been diligent in getting himself fit, starting pre-season training ahead of schedule and focusing on his core, glute and quad muscles to ensure everything is "in sync".

"That's why when I speak about strength and weakness, that's what I can control," he said.

"With my back, I've never been able to squat heavy. But coming to the Sharks I've been able to find different ways to get that load in."

And with his body in better order, the Kiwi ace has resumed proper goal-kicking training - something he couldn't always do last year.

Cronulla's woes from the kicking tee were well-documented as they lost five games despite scoring more tries than their opponents.

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While his misses were more costly due to so many close scorelines, Johnson's strike rate of 76.3 per cent still amounted to his second-best goal-kicking season.

Johnson has recently been working with revered goal-kicking coach Damien Hill, who has helped the Wallabies and several other NRL sharpshooters including Reuben Garrick and Kalyn Ponga.

"Hilly hasn't changed too much. He more so keeps you accountable for your reps, keeps you accountable for your posture," Johnson said.

"He knows that I've been kicking for a long time, kicked in some big games and that, so he's not trying to reinvent the wheel.

"It's been really good, it's been really refreshing, even changing my practice structure ... I'm excited about my goal-kicking.

"If Hilly thinks I'm the best goal-kicker at the club, if Bomber [coach John Morris] thinks I'm the best goal-kicker at the club, I'll happily do it.

"I've never, ever once claimed winning a game through goal-kicking and I've never, ever once claimed losing a game through goal-kicking. There are so many other factors that go into a game."

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Johnson and promising Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo were at Gymea Bay Primary School in Sydney's south on Wednesday morning to talk to students about respect.

The 29-year-old - who wanted to be a teacher if he didn't make it as a rugby league player - was in his element.

"I think anyone that's followed my career knows that this [community work] is a part of the gig that I really do enjoy," Johnson said.

"I've always felt really comfortable about speaking to kids and I sort of consider myself a big kid at heart anyway.

"It's easy for me and I know we can deliver really important, positive messages with what we're able to do every weekend [on the field]."

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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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