Johns backs future Kiwi star

Sunday News Back Page March 22
Sunday News Back Page March 22

ANDREW Johns has put every NRL CEO on red alert today by tipping Warriors junior Shaun Johnson for greatness.

Johns – widely considered to be the greatest player ever to lace up a pair of league boots – watched Johnson for the first time last weekend when he wore the No 6 jersey for Tony Iro’s Warriors under-20 side.
And last night he told Sunday News that no one playing in the halves has impressed him as much since the day he first saw Stacey Jones playing in the Warriors reserves against Newcastle in 1995.

"I haven't been this excited about a player in a long time," Johns said.

"While I am not comparing him to Stacey, it probably would have been that long ago since I've been impressed by a player as much as I have been impressed with this kid."

Johnson, who debuted for the under-20s last Sunday against Parramatta, comes from a touch and Aussie rules background.

He wowed experts and commentators alike against the Eels when he showed numerous touches of class, scoring two tries and producing a stunning chip kick which he collected expertly and then stepped and swerved past defenders before sending interchange forward Elijah Niko in for a magnificent try.

"Everything Shaun did was class," Johns said. "Sometimes, when you watch players, they seem to have more time than anyone else on the field. He has that.

"He set up a try, scored a couple himself and at one stage he was surrounded by defenders coming at him but he remained cool under pressure. Nothing fazed him.

"He's one of those players who don't come around too often."

Johns' comments will send alarm bells ringing through every NRL club's corridors none more so than the Warriors themselves who have Johnson signed on an opportunity-based contract until the end of next season.

Sunday News understands Johnson's current deal is worth only $12,500 a year.

CEO Wayne Scurrah would be wise to begin negotiations to extend the 18-year-old's contract immediately before Johnson's managers Peter Brown and Frank Endacott begin fielding offers for him from the Penrose outfit's NRL rivals.

Endacott a coach at the Warriors during Jones' first four years at the club isn't surprised by the rap given by Johns to the young standoff .

"I'm a little bit loathe to heap too much praise on young players but obviously the early signs are very good," Endacott said.

"And it's interesting that Andrew Johns has said what he said because I remember him saying the same thing about Stacey all those years ago."

Clearly Johnson still has it all to do one game for the Warriors' under-20s does not a career make.

One of the Warriors' priorities is to build up his body.

He weighs in at 82kgs and the lesson of watching the Tigers send a young and underweight Benji Marshall into the NRL cauldron a few years ago has been noted at Warriors HQ.

But for Johns who only rarely grants interviews these days to go on the record so enthusiastically suggests the future is bright for the one-time Orewa College student.

"He looks like the complete player," Johns said. "And he should have a great future in the game.

"He's got a good structure around him at the Warriors Tony Iro, (first grade coach) Ivan Cleary and Stacey Jones will look after him. He has to decide to work hard and make the sacrifices that he needs to make. If he does that he could have a great career."

Sunday News