Johnson can be the new Benji, says Freeman - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Johnson can be the new Benji, says Freeman

Ian McCullough 19/09/2011 04:35:28 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand great Gary Freeman believes brilliant young Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson can become as good as Kiwi superstar Benji Marshall.

Freeman, one of the finest halves to come out of the Shaky Isles, says in Marshall, Johnson and Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran, the Kiwis' playmaking stocks are stronger than ever.

The 21-year-old was outstanding in the Warriors' heart-stopping 22-20 win over Marshall's Wests Tigers on Friday, setting up two ofhis NRL side's four tries including the bomb for Krisnan Inu's last-gasp four-pointer.

And Freeman is confident the Aucklander has the ability and temperament to shine when the Warriors meet minor premiers Melbourne for a place in the grand final on Saturday.

"Johnson's biggest thing is that he has plenty of pace, he is a flying machine and a great reading of the game," Freeman told AAP.

"He is willing to take the line on and has a tremendous kicking game and really backs himself.

"I think he will be as good as Benji, but like all the young guys that come in, when you reach the NRL it is not until you play week in, week out and perform, that you can say you have made it.

"He is doing a good job at letting (halves partner James) Maloney take control of the football and the more confident he gets, the more the Warriors will benefit, I think you will see the best of Johnson coming over the next few weeks."

Freeman is also delighted by the progress of Manly's Foran, who he believes will get the nod over Johnson to partner Marshall in the Four Nations tournament starting next month.

He also cautioned against playing Foran in the centres in order to accommodate Johnson in what would potentially be a mouth-watering combination with Marshall.

"Foran will play half for sure, with Benji at five-eighth," he said.

"We tried it with Foran as a centre when he was a baby, but that is not his position, he is a great talent and a tremendous defender, but playing him out of position would be unfair on him and too much to ask of a young fella.

"I hold my hands up and say I never gave Manly a chance this season with Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves as they were so inexperienced.

"But it is credit to them and Des Hasler to get to within one game of the grand final, and this big-game experience is great for Foran from a New Zealand point of view ahead of the Four Nations."

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