In terms of the Warriors' future success, Shaun Johnson is neither the panacea or the pariah.

The way Johnson ended the season at ANZ Stadium has unfortunately marked his card; that's the memory that a lot of fans will take into the summer break.

They won't recall the heroics in Canberra and Perth, the impact he had in Brisbane or Wollongong, or some standout displays at Mt Smart, during his most consistent season in years.

But the reaction to his muted performance last Saturday has been a bit over the top, as the Warriors wouldn't have been in the top eight without him.


In Sydney he didn't get a platform at all from his forwards, and no one, not even Johnson, can sidestep through a set defence. His lack of involvement and urgency was surprising, but his descent over the last three days from one of the best halfbacks in the NRL to one of the worst is a bit silly.

Let's look at the evidence.

Shaun Johnson of the Warriors in action during the round 24 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors in action during the round 24 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers. Photo / Getty Images.

1) Forward momentum

The biggest issue for the Warriors on Saturday was their lack of go forward. Beyond the the first 20 minutes, the forwards couldn't compete with their Penrith counterparts.

The departure of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also showed how much the team has relied on the fullback, and his prodigious ability to carve off running metres. The forwards weren't helped by the constant team errors, but they were also badly outsmuscled.

2) Round 24
Two weeks ago Johnson had one of his finest games of the season, against the Panthers at Mt Smart. He was everywhere, and involved in everything, even making more than 20 tackles to lessen the threat of Viliame Kikau and Waqa Blake.

Nathan Cleary had a relatively quiet match that night. The reason? The Warriors pack fired, the Panthers' big men didn't.

3) Easy target
Johnson is an easy target. Sure, his game hasn't developed in the way that many expected, after his breakthrough season in 2011, and he will never be a Cooper Cronk or a Daly Cherry-Evans in terms of organisational ability and game management.


He's not even really a natural leader, unlike many number sevens. But he has weapons that no one else does, and is still the most creative player the Warriors have got. He's also a reliable goalkicker, and their best long range kicker.

4) The feats of the 'Fus'
In case anyone has forgotten, David Fusitu'a crossed for 23 tries this season. He plays on the same edge as Johnson, and majority of those tries were set up by the halfback's passes, kicks or sleight of foot.

5) Statistics
This season Johnson recorded 18 try assists, 14 line break assists and made seven line breaks. He contributed 46 running metres (consistent with six of the last seven seasons) and only 17 errors, his lowest since 2011.

Whatever you think of Johnson, the Warriors aren't usually the same team without him.

He may not be the man for the future, but the past seven years at Mt Smart would have been a lot worse without him.

Decision time is coming.

Johnson's contract is up at the end of 2019, and his next deal will need to be sorted well before then.

The club may want to see what he can produce in the first half of next season, but that's not ideal. If Johnson doesn't stay beyond 2019, who do the Warriors replace him with?

That's not easy to answer, in terms of the pool of available talent, that is guaranteed to be a superior option.