General Shaun Johnson to track Rabbitohs playmaker

Ryno_old

Guest
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE

Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson says he loves watching Chris Sandow, and has vowed to keep a close eye on his South Sydney opposite in tomorrow's NRL clash in Sydney.

Rookie Johnson is rapidly finding his feet in first grade. It has been a sink-or-swim experience, but one he has increasingly enjoying as he gets to rub shoulders with players he has largely seen on TV up until now.

Sandow falls into that category. The nuggety South halfback lines up at ANZ Stadium tomorrow with a game that is starting to validate the massive investment the Eels have made in persuading him to join Parramatta next year.

"He's a player I love watching," Johnson said of Sandow. "I'm not sure what it's going to be like playing against him. He seems like a pretty fiery sort of player, so it's another challenge. I've had a few over the last few weeks so like anything else I'm looking forward to it.

"I think he's another player you can't switch off against or he will make you pay. He's been playing some good footy and he has got a massive contract with the Eels ... I'm sure it's well deserved."

Johnson, 20, is an outrageous talent himself and a young man who's rapidly learning valuable lessons just five games into his promising career.

He started with a bang against the Roosters, but his defensive shortcomings were cruelly exposed the following week when Kiwis maestro Benji Marshall moved into halfback to mastermind a stunning Tigers comeback win. Johnson trudged off Mt Smart with seven missed tackles beside his name and major question marks over him. He has worked extra hard on this, shown by last week's one tackle miss in the big win over the Bulldogs.

Johnson knows Sandow will test his defence but he's up for that challenge.

"I've been working hard at that. Every day after training I stay behind for a bit of defence, getting big Ukuma Ta'ai to run at me. I'm feeling pretty confident there.

"I think the biggest thing I've found is that mentally you can't switch off for one second. All the other grades you play you can kind of get away with it but not here.

"I don't want to have to learn that lesson twice so I'm going to stay switched on."

But it is Johnson's attacking qualities that set him apart. The under-20s star has been encouraged by how he has been able to implement them in the NRL.

The Warriors coaches have given him a licence to have a go when he sees fit.
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"Obviously they love me to play what I see is best from what's in front of me. But we have structures, games plans, and plays that we know work for us. My job is to execute them and I've found a lot of things can happen off those plays – they aren't set in concrete.

"When I got told I was going to be playing, my biggest concern was that I'd look out of place or whether I'd be able to handle it. But you make a break or half break and you get confidence from that and it encourages you take the line on more.

"I've just got to try to play my role in the team. I'm finding what that is, and what's best at certain times."

Johnson's boot is under-rated against his dangerous running game. In five games, he has made 425m on the run and 775m through kicking. But three line-breaks and 15 tackle breaks point to where his real potential lies in busting open defences.

He is soaking up everything he can from some wise his heads in his new environment and his rapid progress is proof of that.

"You just get a little bit more confidence every time you play and the last couple of weeks has shown that ... it's been a little better getting a couple of wins too.

"But the most important thing for us now is to push on.

"We have got things back on track and we have to put a good performance this weekend. We haven't been too flash away from home this year."

Overall, the Warriors have a solid record against South Sydney, with 16 wins from 23 encounters. But South Sydney are hardly the Warriors' bunnies, winning four of the past six matches.
 

ToiletDuck_old

Guest
I enjoy the fact that Shaun openly talks about specific short-comings in his game. Rather than side stepping the issue with generic talk about being generally inexperienced, room for improvement etc etc. Takes a bit of humility. I also keep forgetting he has only played 5 games, seems to have been around forever.
 

Ryno_old

Guest
It would be awesome if the Warriors went and grabbed Andrew Johns to help him out a bit. I know he has been working with Foran and you can see his game come in leaps and bounds.

Could also help him with defense strategies as well.
 

ToiletDuck_old

Guest
I'm not sure what Stacey Jones is doing these days (I did see him on an insurance ad?), but I'm sure he's probably a more likely candidate for that role.

Johns will just convince Shaun to head to Newcastle to be coached by himself and Wayne Bennett - and from a pure rugby league supporter perspective, I would love to see the end product of that.
 

wazzam_old

Guest
I enjoy the fact that Shaun openly talks about specific short-comings in his game. Rather than side stepping the issue with generic talk about being generally inexperienced, room for improvement etc etc. Takes a bit of humility. I also keep forgetting he has only played 5 games, seems to have been around forever.

True that. With that attitude and the skills he already has that boy has a HUGE future ahead of him. To all the Shaun Johnson critics on here, if you had to choose anyone to practise tackling on, would you choose Ta'ai ???? Personally, i'd rather tackle a bus! At least you'd have a chance of denting the bus :madgrin:
 

Fazz_old

Guest
Good shit. Don't think him getting a big head is much of a concern. He's really improving at a rapid rate. His latest 2 games have been his best probably.
 

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