Saturday, 4 June 2016

Shaun Johnson: From Golden Boot to Black Sheep

Written by Gareth Sykes

SJ, Magic Johnson, Princess, Shaun or Johnson, whatever name you use to refer to the Warriors number 7 there is no denying the huge amounts of natural talent this young man possesses.

At just 25 years of age he has played in a Grand Final during his rookie first grade season, won international rookie of the year in 2012, was selected for the All Star side in 2013, led the Kiwis to the 2013 Grand Final thanks to some individual brilliance in the 80th minute of their Semi Final vs England, was instrumental in the Kiwis defeat of Australia in the 2014 4 Nations Final, won a Golden Boot Award in 2014 and has played 112 games for the NZ Warriors including 51 tries as well as having represented New Zealand on 15 occasions. If that wasn't enough for you, a quick search on YouTube will show you highlight reels from his career so far that 99.9% of professional league players would be envious of.  

Regardless of all his accomplishments and natural ability, he is often the scapegoat when the team loses, it's his fault we're not scoring points, he's the reason we're leaking tries due to his pedestrian-like defence, he doesn't organise enough, he doesn't run enough, he doesn't kick at the right times and when he does it's the wrong type of kick. Why do we as fans point the finger squarely in his direction? Is this not a team sport we're talking about? Do we expect too much from SJ?

We all admit to being long suffering fans, there is no denying that. One thing that is easy to slip our minds from time to time is the pressure that this can create within the playing group. While SJ may not have felt the weight of expectations that would soon be placed upon his shoulders early in his career, the fans had already made their minds up after only a handful of games that this new kid in the halves would lead us to premiership glory and ease the pain and heartache we've been dealt since our inception.

Many fans seem to be happy to go into bat for certain players that have played through the years that SJ has been with the club. Most players who perform poorly or don't seem to reach their potential over that period of time seem to have the luxury afforded to them from the fan base that we've been through "x" amount of coaches over that period of time. SJ knows no different than the revolving door process of coaches within the club. Since his debut in 2011, he's had 5 different head coaches in only 6 seasons.

Now if there was one player, or one position, that would be affected by the coaching merry-go-round within the club it would primarily be the Halfback. If we were to have had a veteran in that position during those times maybe we wouldn't have noticed it as much but when a rookie comes into the side in a key position and has next to no consistency with his coaching staff while he is learning how to not only play at NRL level, but lead a group of grown men around the paddock while at the same time trying his best to keep the fans at bay, is it any wonder we may have seen a plateau in his performances? Is it any wonder we are now bearing witness to the exposed frailties within his game? Have the club had the back of a man we hinge all our hopes and dreams on or has the inability at the top finally filtered down into the playing group and is now starting to sprout the roots of seasons past in 2016. 

If we're happy to be pointing fingers at SJ we must look deeper within, not only the playing roster but also the coaching staff, from the water boy to the CEO and anyone in between. 

Have a look at our current forward pack. With the names that we have in those positions it is inexcusable for them not to be getting into arm wrestles with opposition teams, it's inexcusable for them to be getting bashed in every other game, it's inexcusable for them not to be making good metres in that engine room and in turn providing our halfback with some room to actually have an opportunity to make something happen. We've seen plenty of players come out and have their say in the media of late but we have not seen our forwards come out and explain that the criticism we (fans) place upon our halfback and how it is unwarranted, because truth be told, our forwards aren't doing their job first and foremost. 

For far too long many of our players, both senior and junior, have stood with hands on hips and mouths wide open in awe of the brilliance Shaun can produce on a footy field. It seems to have come to a point where if nothing is happening, we just get the ball and look to where SJ is, pass it to him and hope he can wave that magic wand and produce something out of nothing. Too many players seem to have forgotten that they too have been blessed with natural skill and ability. We've all watched SJ do his thing for so long it seems like now that he is in a bit of a form slump nobody remembers what they used to do before he'd drag us out of the shit. 

It's time we had 17 players working as one on the field. It's time we, as fans, become the "18th man" and got behind this team that we love. A team who are quite clearly doing it tough at the moment and seem to feel as though the fans have turned their back on them. We are Warrior Nation and we NEVER turn our back on our own. 

Let's put the finger pointing aside for a while and let the lads get back to doing what it is that they do best without the added pressure we are unknowingly putting on them ourselves.


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  1. yea well whatever happy they won

    1. Yeh well whatever what exactly? I'm not sure what you're trying to get across there? I am very happy they won as well