NRL rookie Johnson still living up to hype - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NRL rookie Johnson still living up to hype

Steve Jancetic 20/09/2011 04:54:24 PM Comments (0)

It took Shaun Johnson just one Toyota Cup game to draw praise from one of the game's greats, but the Warriors rookie says he still has some way to go to live up to the lofty expectations.

Halfback of the century Andrew Johns described Johnson as one of the NRL's best playmaking prospects back in 2009 - a prediction he is only just starting to make good on as he leads his side into Saturday night's preliminary final against Melbourne.

He'll do so with just 14 top grade games to his name, the steep learning curve not lost on Johnson.

"It's been an awesome ride so far," Johnson said.

"The boys are relying on me a little bit more each week, I've just got to deliver for them and keep that up.

"What he (Johns) said to me early on was pretty unreal for myself, being the player he was.

"I took it on board but I quickly realised that you've got to move on and I just hope he's saying that stuff in ten years time."

Given the assured performances the 21-year-old has put in over the back half of the season, there's every chance of that occurring.

With the Warriors' season seemingly over against Wests Tigers on Friday night, Johnson instigated the match-winning try for Krisnan Inu with a precise kick.

It's those plays that allow coach Ivan Cleary to forgive the youthful errors.

"There's certainly times where you wish he was more involved, but each game he's playing at the moment is probably the hardest game he's ever played," Cleary said.

"It keeps going up in intensity each week and he's trying to cope with that.

"The back end of the game (against the Tigers) he understood what he needed to do and he put the kick where he needed for Krisnan's try - that's good composure for a young fella - he'll get a lot out of it."

But while Cleary can overlook the blemishes for the beauty, his teammates make sure Johnson is kept on a short leash.

During a first half in which the Warriors fell behind 18-6 to the Tigers, backrower Feleti Mateo chipped Johnson after a lacklustre end to a set of six.

"There's probably times when you've got to have a hard word to them (young players)," Mateo said.

"I had one to Shaun in the game - a little one and he didn't like it but I guess it's just footy and that's the strength that we have in the squad, you can tell anyone anything and everything's equal in the team.

"If I stuffed up then I'd probably hear it from him too."

In some cases it would be the type of interaction that could drive a wedge between teammates, but not for Johnson.

"Feleti's got high standards of myself," Johnson said.

"He certainly lets me know when I do something wrong out there and I appreciate that."

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