Matty Johns wants Shaun Johnson to switch between five-eighth and fullback for the Sharks.
Matty Johns wants Shaun Johnson to switch between five-eighth and fullback for the Sharks.

Johns’ revolutionary role for Johnson at Sharks

Shaun Johnson's expected move to Cronulla has the ability to revolutionise his career, hitting the reset button on how his trademark explosive talents can be used.

That is the opinion of Matty Johns, who thinks a move to Cronulla is a virtual certainty after Johnson was released by the Warriors.

However, if the Sharks fork out the money they had set aside for the Valentine Holmes in 2019, Johns believes the Test halfback would be best used in a new way.

"Johnson wore the No.7 for his whole career, but I don't see him as a No.7. I see him as a reactive player," Johns said on Triple M's The Grill Team.

"I actually think if I had the opportunity to coach him at the start of his first-grade career, I'd have been tempted to play him at fullback - because he's a brilliant reactive footballer.

"But, the great news, as far as the Cronulla Sharks, if they're going to sign Shaun Johnson next year, is that the No.6 and the No.1 play almost interchangeable roles in the modern game.

"The best teams play that way, where the No.6 and No.1 they do a little bit of playmaking, and a fair bit of running - they play interchangeable roles - and the No.7 has become more of a full-field player rather than a half-field player."

Johnson has played the vast majority of his 162 first grade games and 29 Tests for New Zealand at No.7.

However, his greatest strength has always been his running game, which would be allowed to flourish playing a roving role between No.6 and No.1 at the Sharks.

"I think will be a success because number one, they've got a big strong pack," Johns said. "They're going to go forward for him, they're going to give him momentum, they're going to give him time to move.

"Secondly, he'll have a playmaker alongside him who will control sets of six, who will want to control everything and allow him to just play that reactive role - and that's Chad Townsend.

 

Johnson struggled at times to balance his running game with directing the Warriors around the park.
Johnson struggled at times to balance his running game with directing the Warriors around the park.

"Chad Townsend is a controller. Even when Maloney was there. Maloney said 'I'd just sit back and watch and Townsend would control things.'

"And he's got a guy who will go to fullback in Matt Moylan, who he can play an interchangeable role as well.

"I always look at Moylan as more of a No.1 than he is a No.6, but he's comfortable playing in the halves, and Johnson as I've said before, could do vice versa."

Johnson has been charged with controlling the team and directing the Warriors around the park for most of his career.

However, this has blunted his best attribute, which is his broken field running, according to Johns.

"I think for Shane Flanagan there's a lot of scope for variation in their football," Johns said.

"There might be the temptation to say, 'for the next 20 minutes Shaun I want you to slip it back into the fullback role. Let's see what you can do on kick returns.'

"I think all-in-all it'd be a great signing for the Sharks, and I think it'll be a really good move for Shaun Johnson."

 

Sharks possible 2019 team

1. Matt Moylan

2. Sosaia Feki

3. Josh Dugan

4. Josh Morris

5. Sione Katoa

6. Shaun Johnson

7. Chad Townsend

8. Andrew Fifita

9. Jayden Brailey

10. Aaron Woods

11. Scott Sorenson

12. Kurt Capewell/ Wade Graham (injured)

13. Paul Gallen

14. Blayke Brailey

15. Ava Seumanufagai

16. Matt Prior

17. Jason Bukuya