The season is going from bad to worse for Shaun Johnson.

The Sharks have slumped to a third straight defeat in which they scored more tries than the opposition, the first time this has occurred in the NRL.

Johnson was dragged off the field as the Sharks crashed 22 – 24 to a depleted Broncos outfit, with Johnson making just two runs for 12 metres.

"$1m Sharks recruit hooked in loss" screamed a Daily Telegraph headline, stating the "controversial benching of a superstar has stolen the headlines".

Advertisement

Sharks coach John Morris said the $800,000 a year Johnson was replaced in the final minutes because he needed to keep a goal kicker on the field.

But under normal circumstances a supposed star playmaker like Johnson, who arrived at Cronulla via a controversial exit from the Warriors, would be expected to orchestrate a late bid for victory.

"…this was the guy who was going to add some match-winning brilliance to the Sharks, maybe even take them to another premiership," Paul Crawley wrote in the Telegraph.

"The big issue now will be if Morris keeps Johnson in the starting side for next Saturday's huge match against Melbourne for Cam Smith's 400th match milestone given goal kicking is the Sharks' other major worry.

"Perhaps the only thing that will save Johnson the indignity of losing his starting spot is the fact young Flanagan was placed on report for an ugly kneeing incident."

Johnson missed all three of his shots last week against the Bulldogs, while Chad Townsend missed four straight against a young Broncos side ravaged by State of Origin call-ups.