Shaun Johnson says he isn’t searching for a highlight play

Shaun Johnson is over it. The Cronulla Sharks five-eighth wants fans to stop waiting for him to produce the highlight reel play as he prepares for just his second NRL finals campaign.

SHAUN Johnson knows you’re waiting for the big play. The goose step. The triple cut out pass to score a try.

But Johnson is not too interested in all of that.

“Does Cooper Cronk do that?” Johnson asked. “Did (Johnathan) Thurston do that? You look at what has stood up in big moments. That stuff doesn’t.

“Everyone has a job within a side and my role and my expectation, it’s not to step five people and throw a long ball and set up glamorous tries. It’s just executing my role. The role my teammates expect me to execute.

Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson puts in a measured attacking kick against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. Picture: Getty Images
Cronulla five-eighth Shaun Johnson puts in a measured attacking kick against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.

“I get kids come up to me and say they love my step or someone comes up to me and says ‘hey, are we going to see the big goosie’ … well no you’re probably not.”

It is remarkable to think that when Johnson runs out for Cronulla against Manly today it is just his second finals game since featuring in a grand final for the Warriors in his debut season in 2011.

He made one finals appearance for the Warriors last year after a six-year absence but said his late pre-season move to the Sharks was inspired by a chance to join a team which has featured regularly in finals football.

“I looked at the Sharks and said these guys are tough, they play in the big games, they seem to be there or thereabouts in every game they play,” Johnson said. “So now that we’re here it’s like ‘okay, now you get to be a part of it’. You get to stamp your mark on why you came to this club. Show people what you have on the big stage.

“I remember coming in 2011 and thinking, how good is this? This is what footy is all about, playing in a grand final in my first year. Since then, you realise there is a bit more to it and it is a little tougher to do.

Sharks coach John Morris hugs Shaun Johnson of the Sharks after the pair qualified for the NRL finals with a win over the Wests Tigers. Picture: Mark Evans/AAP
Sharks coach John Morris hugs Shaun Johnson of the Sharks after the pair qualified for the NRL finals with a win over the Wests Tigers.

“Last year being with the Warriors back in that environment, it was an unreal feeling. Being able to back it up this year — on a personal note — you just don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. Let the week unfold, enjoy the moment. But this is all irrelevant if we don’t go out there and perform well this weekend. That’s in the back of my mind.”

The Sharks had a finals-like performance last week when they beat the Tigers to qualify for a top eight spot. They face Manly at Lottoland today where they have won just six times in the past 52 years.

“With all my experiences and what I’ve been able to create through my career, moments like these are what people will remember me as,” Johnson said. “And I’m not talking about a highlight play. I’m talking about the fight and the relentless pressure I can build and can put on a team.

“This really is the minimum of my expectations and where I expected us to be. Now we just have to try and push on as long as we can.”

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