Warriors' fortunes resting with Shaun Johnson

DAVID LONG
Last updated 11:55 17/02/2013
Shaun Johnson
Photosport
HEAVY LOAD: Shaun Johnson will be a pivotal part of the Warriors' season.

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Despite being just 22-years-old, success or failure for the Warriors this year could well be decided by how Shaun Johnson goes.

He faded over the later part of the 2012 campaign when, admittedly, the team went into meltdown, but he is certainly one of the team's greatest talents.

Going into this year's campaign he's fresh and excited and playing a part in that feeling was his recent experience playing for the NRL All Stars in Brisbane last weekend.

Johnson was called into the side as a replacement for Cooper Cronk and although the Indigenous All Stars smashed the NRL All Stars 32-6, Johnson said it was a great experience for him to not only rub shoulders with many of the game's greatest players, but also to work under Wayne Bennett for a short period of time.

"I picked up things and took in everything that was said," Johnson said.

"At the same time, I enjoyed my time up there and it was an awesome environment to be a part of, with the calibre of players in that group.

"It was great to listen and take in how they prepare for games and how they train."

Last weekend was the second time the Indigenous All Stars had won this fixture since its inception in 2010.

The build up to the game does tend to focus more on the Indigenous side than the All Stars team and the fixture has become a celebration of Aboriginal culture and sporting excellence.

So much is this the case that Johnson said he didn't feel too bad about being on the losing side.

"I'll just say that it was awesome to see the Aboriginals win," he said.

"The whole week was about them and it meant the world to them and their supporters.

"Obviously we would have liked to have won, but at the end of the day they wanted it more, you could tell that."

Reflecting on himself, Johnson is pretty clear about what his goals are for the season ahead and they shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

"I want to get back to playing good, consistent footy," he said.

"There was a lot of respect lost [last year] not just for myself, but for the team also because of the way we performed.

"As a group we just want to get back out there and play well.

"We want to give what we did over the off season some justice and show that we're working hard."

Johnson said he has been pleased with what new coach Matt Elliott has brought to the team and he believed he has raised the bar at the club.

"He has brought a fresh attitude for sure and just his professionalism," Johnson said.

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"I'm not saying last year wasn't professional, but he's shown a completely new side to it and is showing things that I didn't think were possible.

"But with the way everything is structured and the new equipment we've got, it's all credit to him and his fellow staff members."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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