When you think of game-breakers in today's NRL, the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, James Tedesco and Anthony Milford spring to mind.

One that is often forgotten is the x-factor of the perennially disappointing Warriors: Shaun Johnson.

Johnson unfairly bears the brunt of many of Warriors critics' carping.

"He doesn't kick accurately enough."


"When does he set up tries?"

"He's selfish."

Selfish wouldn't normally describe a player who has the second-most try assists while being in the top 10 for line break assists but that's the reality we apparently live in.

For a halfback with a soft, back-pedalling forward pack and a halves partner who is allergic to kicking, Johnson is doing pretty well.

Oddly enough, the mercurial Johnson leads the competition in kicks in play by a comfortable margin. This is where the big issue lies.

What is the expectation on Shaun Johnson? Do people want him to be a running half who sets up tries and makes line breaks? Or should he focus on pedantically making the right play and leave any shred of flair at home?

With how the Warriors have structured the roster, you'd think the latter. They've paired him with an underperforming Kieran Foran in the halves. Issac Luke at hooker doesn't kick a lot either for some reason. So the burden is put on Johnson.

That would be fine but when they're doing that the coaching staff are taking away Johnson's ace card - his running game.

Whenever he decides to take on the line he puts the opposing defence in raptures. He's lightning quick, sees space like very few can and has a deadly sidestep.

Anyone with half a brain would use him in the running half role that made Benji Marshall the Golden Boot winner in 2010.

But no, he's expected to do both roles. That doesn't work with Johnson. No blame goes the way of Foran for how his partner has played in 2017, which has been a lot better than people give him credit for.

Foran is essentially used as a centre who can pass when he pulls on one of the Warriors' 900 strips.

He's a far better player than that but he hasn't taken any pressure off Johnson on the final tackle.

Opposition defences know exactly where the ball is going to go on fifth tackle because Johnson is the only one who kicks it. They can focus solely on him defensively with no fear of anyone else doing anything.

No one kicks anywhere near as much as Johnson. Cooper Cronk, Adam Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce - all far superior in-play kickers than Johnson - aren't even close in their numbers.

Johnson was at his sublime best when he was paired with James Maloney who could take the kicking pressure off Johnson and allow him to run the ball.

With Foran and Ata Hingano his pairing options, he never gets any respite. Before them Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Robson and Chad Townsend were the same.

Who knows what it will take for the coaching crew to pair him with a good and willing kicker. Give Mason Lino a starting gig in 2018 and the Warriors will be far improved.

Maybe not a playoff side still (that would require a clean-out of the pack) but better.

At least that way Johnson can use his boots to sidestep his way to the tryline, not kick the Warriors out of their own 30 on the last.