Newcastle great, Fox Sports analyst and NRL halves Svengali Matthew Johns has delivered a ringing endorsement of Warriors pairing Blake Green and Shaun Johnson on the eve of the finals.
Johns, who is regularly sounded out by clubs to tutor their young playmakers, ran the rule over the top-eight linchpins on NRL 360 on Wednesday night.
While much of his technical rugby league speak would have gone over the head of the average fan, Warriors supporters’ ears would have pricked up when Johns started talking about the importance of balance to halves combination.
Ideally, one half is the patient, calm head responsible for directing the team around the paddock, allowing the other to follow their instincts, pick their moments and explode when the opportunities arise.
“And that’s why I really like the combination of Blake Green and Shaun Johnson,” Johns said.
“That’s why Green’s great, Green sits in the middle of the field and he just fishes.
“He puts the line in the water all the time and he’s just dropping blokes under, hits a bloke short, and he’s just sort of fiddling around and keeping the ship on the rails, and all of a sudden he goes dink and he shoots the ball to Johnson.
“And Johnson’s a reactor. They rush Johnson when he’s up nice and flat, and he’ll just go bang, bang, beat one, beat two, and then all of a sudden when that sequence ends Green puts the ship back on the rails and he gets the structure going again.
“And that’s when the Warriors are really dangerous.”
Johnson and Green have both lavished praise upon the other throughout 2018.
Maligned as enigmatic for most of his highlights-stacked career, Johnson has found that elusive consistency playing alongside a genuine conductor who can take the playmaking pressure off him.
In his first season in Auckland, Green is performing a similar role to the one that was so successful at Manly during his one-year stint in 2017, when he helped unleash No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans’ instinctive brilliance.
'He's really easy to play with' – Blake Green gushes over halves partner Shaun Johnsonhttps://t.co/qL9xo5mj2Q
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) September 4, 2018
Green, who has had the luxury of playing alongside blue-chip halfbacks Cooper Cronk, Cherry-Evans and Johnson since returning from Super League in 2015, is relishing witnessing Johnson’s attacking genius on a weekly basis – and it’s a combination Johns believes can take the Warriors deep into September.
“When the Warriors find the balance in their football they are so dangerous, and Green allows that because when the Warriors just play principle or structure-based football they look predictable,” Johns continued.
“Their beautiful football is off the offloads, and the reactive stuff, and the fast stuff.
“But they were never good traditionally at getting themselves back on track because you can’t play that way for 80 minutes, where Green can. And that’s why I think they’re a very dangerous team.”
Shaun Johnson has thrived outside Blake Green this year and the @NZWarriors star has outlined a key quality of the Warriors five-eighth that is making a massive difference this year, via @NRLcomhttps://t.co/dW07uYSbFT#NRL pic.twitter.com/SUkmPp59oF
— Joel Gould (@JoelGould6) July 17, 2018