David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Five-eighth Shaun Johnson hits back at the Warriors' critics

Warriors five-eighth Shaun Johnson says he needs to take the ball to the line better than he did in last Friday's loss to Brisbane. Photo/Getty.
Warriors five-eighth Shaun Johnson says he needs to take the ball to the line better than he did in last Friday's loss to Brisbane. Photo/Getty.

Five-eighth Shaun Johnson says much of the criticism being aimed at the Warriors is unwarranted and is doing his best to block out the external noise coming from fans and media.

Away losses to Wests Tigers and Brisbane see the Warriors towards the bottom of the ladder among six teams yet to register a win over the first fortnight of the NRL.

As the side's chief playmaker, Johnson has come under fire for making just one run with the football in last Friday's away defeat to Brisbane, with Sydney's Triple M radio commentator Ryan Girdler calling for the 25-year-old to be dropped.

Heading into Sunday's vital clash against Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium, Johnson concedes there is room for improvement in his play but brushed off the harsh critiques of the side's performances and his own individual form.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion and that's just his (Girdler)," Johnson told Radio Sport.

"I've got to find other ways to get involved and I've certainly got to take the ball to the line a lot better than I did, in terms of running the ball.

"I've looked at the tape and there was certainly a couple of times that I missed [chances to run].

"I missed the opportunity to put myself in the position to carry the ball and do something off the back of what our forwards are doing.

"But all the noise that everyone's making, it's a bit unwarranted, two games into a season."

Johnson acknowledged his combinations with new hooker Issac Luke and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck have yet to really click, but insists their mutual understanding will become more intuitive in the coming weeks.

Having watched the Broncos game back over, he blames himself for not reading some of the No 9's play and for failing to recognise attacking chances when they were on offer.

Shaun Johnson says he needs to better read the play of new Warriors hooker Issac Luke. Photo/Getty.
Shaun Johnson says he needs to better read the play of new Warriors hooker Issac Luke. Photo/Getty.

"It's a time thing [playing together]," he said. "I've seen times that I missed, where Issac's jumped out [of dummyhalf], and I thought he was going to go a certain way, and he cut back and ended up coming across to my side, which I wasn't ready for.

"There's definitely no excuse if I miss it again, because I've seen the way he likes to do that. He likes to come back off his left foot, and that's coming back on to my side, so I've got to be all over it.

"Every game we play, we're getting better and hopefully we can keep heading in that direction."

Johnson is disappointed with how their campaign has started, but voiced his frustration at the level of discontent coming their way, believing it is too early for critics to be hitting the panic button. Maintaining their focus on improving is the best thing the team can do and he insists confidence within the side remains strong.

"People seem to think we're coming into finals or something right now," he said. "We're certainly disappointed we haven't picked up the results.

"We're coping fine. I can only speak for myself but there's obviously a lot of noise outside that we can't control.

"But we're certainly confident that we're heading in the right direction. We're not buying into what people are saying about us just yet."

Meanwhile, the Warriors are sweating on Ben Matulino's judiciary hearing tonight, with the big prop facing the prospect of spending a month on the sidelines by challenging the grade one charge for a shoulder charge on Broncos wing Corey Oates.

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