ON AIR: The Country - Early Edition

5AM - 6AM

NRL legends call for Shaun Johnson to be dropped by Cronulla Sharks

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2019, 11:13AM

NRL legends call for Shaun Johnson to be dropped by Cronulla Sharks

Author
news.com.au,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2019, 11:13AM

Retired NRL legends Peter Sterling and Luke Lewis have called for the Cronulla Sharks to bring the axe down on big money recruit Shaun Johnson.

The big name star joined the Sharks from the New Zealand Warriors in less than ideal circumstances on a reported three-year $3 million contract during the off-season.

His first season in The Shire hasn't been ideal with injury stealing some game time from the 28-year-old half.

Johnson was dragged off the field in the 70th minute of the Sharks' 24-22 loss to the Broncos on Sunday and watched from the sidelines as the Broncos scored late in one of the low points of his season.

Cronulla coach John Morris said the reason behind dragging him off was the need for a goal kicker, after halfback Chad Townsend missed four from four before Kyle Flanagan kicked the Sharks' only goal.

"I actually needed to keep a goal kicker out there after they scored that last try as we may have needed a kick at goal to square it up," Morris said. "That's why I brought Kyle into the team, to bring us that cover.

"It is a bit frustrating that I am making changes around goal kicking. You shouldn't be thinking like that as a coach. You should be thinking about other parts of your game but at the moment we are in a bit of a hole there."

It saw some Sharks fans burning their jerseys, despite still sitting inside the top eight on the ladder.

Fox Sports' reporter James Hooper wrote Johnson will be spared the humiliation of being one of the highest paid players in reserve grade but the axe is still hanging over his head.

Sharks premiership hero Luke Lewis said Johnson needs to be dropped to get some confidence back.

"It's going to be hard for a coach to say 'we've got a million-dollar player, we can't play him in first grade', but I think (Morris) is going to have to make that big decision and probably put him back there," Lewis told ABC podcast Winning Starts.

"(Morris should) say 'mate I want you in first grade but you need to find some confidence going into the next couple of weeks'.

"I think they really have to give him a rocket and we say we need you at your best, and if you can't we're going to play this young kid in Kyle Flanagan. It's hard to swallow but I think that's the reality."

Lewis said Townsend and Flanagan had been combining well in the halves while Johnson was out but added Johnson had thrown a spanner in the works as a dominant half.

Rugby league legend Sterling said Johnson would probably be the man to be dropped as Flanagan and Townsend have been performing well despite three straight losses for the Sharks.

But he was also perplexed by positional changes with Josh Morris rather than Josh Dugan taking over at the back when Matt Moylan left the field with a hamstring injury.

"He (Morris) wanted to get Kyle Flanagan on for his goalkicking but they needed to score a try as well," Sterling told Wide World of Sports Sterlo's Wrap. "Matt Moylan had already come off and in a situation late in a game where Cronulla are trying to come up with a jack-in-a-box play, Shaun Johnson's your man.

"He's the guy that can get them out of this fix and they take him off and they put a goal kicker on. They needed to score a try before they kicked a goal."

On Fox Sports' NRL Tonight, Townsend said it was disappointing to see fans angry but the players were taking responsibility for the poor results, despite the Sharks still in eighth spot on the ladder.

"The fans are entitled to feel whichever way they want," he said. "Of course we'd love them to support us through thick and thin but they're entitled to their opinion. And Shaun has had a disrupted season so far but three weeks ago he was absolutely outstanding for the Kiwis.

"Shaun is not to blame in our last three games, our whole team is taking responsibility. It's not all Shaun's fault, it's our whole team's fault and we all want to take responsibility because we're not playing at our potential."

 

ON AIR: The Country - Early Edition

5AM - 6AM