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Rattue: Million dollar flop Johnson strikes again

Chris Rattue, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sunday, 9 September 2018, 12:53PM
Chris Rattue: Warriors debacle - If only Shaun Johnson had Jazz Tevaga's ticker. Photo/ Supplied)
Chris Rattue: Warriors debacle - If only Shaun Johnson had Jazz Tevaga's ticker. Photo/ Supplied)

If only Shaun Johnson had Jazz Tevaga's heart.

The Warriors Million Dollar Flop wasn't only shown up by Penrith's James Maloney in Saturday night's sudden death match in Sydney.

A lowly paid teammate also left Johnson's attitude in the shade.

The gap between Johnson and Tevaga, the off-contract bench forward who was the only Warrior to show a Herculean attitude at the ridiculously over-sized Olympic stadium, was embarrassing.

When will the Warriors learn?

Maloney's performance should have taught the Warriors hierarchy a lesson.

While Johnson and Maloney do not play exactly the same role, this was a head-to-head contest in terms of influencing a game.

And this was the $1m-a-year Johnson's moment to prove the doubters wrong. After six years in a finals wilderness his erratic game helped create, the Warriors were back in business after a brilliant start to the 2018 season saved the rollercoaster from crashing this time.

But they were humiliated by the amazing courage and control from Maloney, whose influence at a succession of clubs is reaching legendary proportions.

Nothing stops him when it counts.

TV commentator Steve Roach, the famous old Balmain prop, led the drooling and slobbering when Issac Luke smashed Maloney into the turf.

I'm not sure why the tackle received such applause, because Maloney's torso was unguarded as he reached for the ball and his head and neck hit the ground in a very dangerous way. Why watching something like that turns people on beats me, but each to their own.

Anyway, Maloney had the last laugh, or make that laughs. Struggling up from that frightening hit, he spent the rest of the game tormenting the lame ducks from Auckland.

Maloney's premature departure from the Warriors in 2012 is the biggest disaster in the club's history. The Warriors subsequently broke the bank to keep Johnson happy.

The erratic No. 7 has turned into a major headache, but he's not the only one by any means.

The Warriors were a castle built on sand in 2018. They have too many players who are simply not first-grade standard.

Centre Solomone Kata doesn't have the gifts and Peta Hiku's weird defence will be targeted for the remainder of his career.

The props are second-rate over the long haul even if they can come up with first-rate performances, as they certainly did during 2018.

Adam Blair will be a fading force — he got a ridiculously long contract for a player his age and was among the big failures against Penrith.

Meanwhile, the rising Tevaga, a real footballer already and a real star in the making, is off contract and his value will have skyrocketed.

He has been a revelation all year, and threw himself into the contest yet again, with an under-sized body, big heart and true footballing soul.

Down but never out...Jazz Tevaga during his lone heroics against the Panthers. Photo / Photosport
Down but never out...Jazz Tevaga during his lone heroics against the Panthers. Photo / Photosport

The immediate big issue is Johnson though, not that it will be addressed.

His short dropouts were a disaster on Saturday night, it's hard to remember much else that he did, and he fell over on his one big moment heading to the try line.

Here's the rub though: the Warriors aren't only up against Penrith and company every week — they're actually up against the All Blacks in many ways.

Magic Johnson's Fame Game helps keep them in touch, a safer bet than making tougher football judgments.

NRL success will always be sporadic in a salary cap environment, whereas PR x-factor is permanent. Johnson is a staggering footballer gift-wise who has left his club staggering.

It will be fascinating to see if Tevaga, who holds a few aces, will stay.

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