League: No pressure on Shaun Johnson - Kearney

By Michael Burgess in Newcastle

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images

Stephen Kearney is down playing the expectation on Shaun Johnson in tonight's Anzac test, saying the halfback is just another "spoke in the wheel" in the Kiwis' team.

Much of the focus will be on Johnson at Hunter Stadium, in the absence of Kieran Foran, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke in the New Zealand spine. The back line is also without Dean Whare, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Manu Vatuvei and Peta Hiku, which surely puts more onus on Johnson to deliver.

He'll be the main option to spark the attack, create and score tries, as well as the only recognised kicking option in general play.

But Kearney, who gave Johnson his test debut four years ago at Eden Park, shrugged off the added hype about the Warriors No7.

"I haven't put anything on his shoulders," said Kearney. "I think he wears enough on his shoulders as it is [and] I haven't put any pressure on him. If the forwards do their job and the opportunities arempresented to us, I've got no doubt Shaun is the best in the business to take advantage of them."

It's typical of Kearney who has worked hard over the last two years to create a `team first' culture. In the past individuals like Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall tended to take most - if not all - of the spotlight, which created a different dynamic within the team. But in this Kiwis environment Johnson, from the outside anyway, is just another player.

"It's a collective, it's about everyone doing their job and Shaun is a spoke in the wheel too," said Kearney. "That's all he is. Everyone's role is important in this team. For Shaun to do his role Jesse [Bromwich] has to do his role, so does Adam Blair, Jason [Taumalolo], Lewis [Brown]."

Kearney also reiterated his belief in his rookies and the players in makeshift positions, like Tohu Harris, Jordan Kahu, Brad Takairangi, Gerard Beale and Manu M'au.

"They have been chosen to get a job done for us and I have all the confidence in the world that they will do that, said Kearney. "But they will have 12 team mates on the field and four team mates on the bench helping to get their jobs done too. That is where we draw our strengths from...all our success has always been a 17 man plus effort."

The Kiwis concluded their preparations on Thursday night with their traditional team dinner. Members of the men's team presented jerseys to their counterparts in the Kiwi Ferns, while former Kiwi Jeremy Smith delivered an emotional speech to both teams.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 08 Dec 2016 17:34:58 Processing Time: 512ms