No player likes sitting on the side-line. Shaun Johnson hates it.
So, he’s elated he has the chance to come back for the Vodafone Warriors’ last two games of their 2017 campaign starting with Sunday’s 25th-round encounter with Manly at his favourite playground, Mount Smart Stadium.
He can’t understand the commentary going on about the wisdom of him making his return now from his posterior cruciate ligament injury.
It has kept him side-lined since the July 14 encounter with Penrith. Watching his team-mates in the past five games has been frustrating in the extreme; he has wanted nothing more than to be out on the field alongside them in battle. And yet some people think it’s a risk that he’s coming back after ticking all the boxes in rehab.
“Why would I want to miss these opportunities?” is Johnson’s retort. “There’s so much to play for.”
After playing the first 17 matches of the season, he is set to team up with Kieran Foran in the halves as the Vodafone Warriors strive to snap a run of seven straight defeats.
It says much for Johnson’s ability that he still features among the competition’s leading playmakers despite playing only 17 matches this season.
Look at the numbers for try assists, for instance. He lies fourth equal with 16 try assists in those 17 games. Only Daly Cherry-Evans (19), Gareth Widdop (18) and Ash Taylor (17) are ahead of him (and, by the way, Foran has 10 as well). By way of comparison, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk have 11 try assists each, Mitchell Pearce 12 and James Maloney 10.
Johnson still tops the kick metres category with 6785 and is fourth for most kicks in play with 237 behind Nathan Cleary (255), Adam Reynolds (246) and Pearce (241).
Welcome back SJ.