After the Warriors carved up the Sydney Roosters in a 30-6 boilover at Allianz Stadium on Saturday with Shaun Johnson sidelined by injury, the NRL360 team addressed what the team’s first win without their No.7 talisman since 2014 means moving forward.
With buy-of-the-season contender Blake Green pulling the strings from five-eighth and halfback fill-in Mason Lino playing an equally steady hand in the authoritative victory, co-hosts Ben Ikin and Paul Kent highlighted a shift in who is truly steering the Warriors’ ship.
“Well, it’s Blake Green’s team – that’s the message there, it’s not Shaun Johnson’s team,” Kent said.
“I said yesterday – and it caused a bit of unrest amongst some of the troops – that they’re even better without Shaun Johnson the Warriors, based on the fact that (with Johnson) as the chief playmaker they get a bit scatty.
“But they played a perfect NRL style of football on Saturday against the Roosters.”
Ikin was slightly more circumspect, emphasising that Johnson remains vital to what the Warriors want to achieve.
“I think an adjusted role for Shaun Johnson could be on the cards,” the former Origin pivot said.
“He is one of the most dangerous ball-runners in our competition, so they need him in the halves.
“But I’m with you, I’m starting to think that if you play Blake Green on the ball, give him chief responsibility for that team, we’re going to see more often what we saw from the Warriors against the Roosters.”
Blake Green – buy of the year #NRLRoostersWarriors
— Michael Carayannis (@MCarayannis) March 31, 2018
Johnson has regularly proven himself as one of the NRL’s premier game-breakers, while – despite the contention of the NRL360 team – he has also played some brilliant hands from a game-management perspective.
But one aspect Johnson apologists and detractors will likely agree on is that he’s struggled for consistency with both critical roles on his shoulders.
“I put him in the same bucket as Anthony Milford – it’s never fully sat that well with either player the responsibility of managing a team,” Ikin continued.
“The best role Shaun Johnson could play at the moment is the instinctive style (from) space created by the bloke inside.
“Getting a feel for the momentum of the game, when the Warriors are winning momentum and seeing what’s in front of him, and play.”
— Dan Walsh (@dan_walsh64) April 1, 2018
Kent concurred that Johnson needs to be allowed to pick his moments – which Green’s arrival allows him to do.
“Hitting the vulnerable spots in the defensive line – (Johnson’s) got to find a way where he’s getting the ball and hitting the defensive line at speed, and he’s putting them under pressure and his feet do the rest,” Kent said.
“What we haven’t spoken about enough is the kicking game, too.
“The kicking game on the weekend – and not only Blake Green’s, but Mason Lino, his kicking game was spot on.
“That’s never been a great strength of Shaun Johnson’s – he can kick, but he’s certainly not pin perfect like we saw on the weekend.”
Again, this is overly harsh on Shaun Johnson.
Boasting one of the biggest boots in the business, Johnson has been among the NRL’s best at forcing repeat sets, despite the Warriors’ overall disappointing results. With Green – who has already nailed two 40/20s this season after topping the category in 2017 while at Manly – alongside Johnson, the Warriors have two top-shelf kicking options at their disposal.
It also overlooks the fact that the Warriors’ forwards are consistently laying a platform in 2018 that Johnson could have only dreamed of in the previous six campaigns.
Johnson is destined to play more of a role in directing the Warriors than Kent and Ikin are predicting, but there’s no question Green frees him up to unleash his peerless off-the-cuff attacking talents.
And the notion that Lino – who was outstanding in the win over the Roosters – could usurp Johnson in the Warriors’ line-up is nothing but clickbait from FoxSports.
NRL Pressure Gauge: Why Warriors must consider crazy axing of $1M star Shaun Johnson https://t.co/P0wT2yxnu9
— Мария (@MoySkazki) April 2, 2018