Barely a game goes by this season without the phrase ‘winding back the clock’ and Shaun Johnson being mentioned in the same breath.
As they were when the 32-year-old veteran flummoxed the Bulldogs’ defensive line with his match-winning try in the One New Zealand Warriors’ first home game day at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart in March.
Naturally the clock saying and Johnson emphatically belonged in the same sentence in the 30-8 home win over the Dolphins when he scored an utterly scintillating, hot stepping throwback double. And then he provided try assists, game management par excellence and his exclamation mark try to cap Friday night’s superb 36-14 dismantling of Canberra.
If Johnson is evoking memories of earlier times with his deeds and the sheer joy he’s exuding, then it’s also reflected in bald statistics.
Rd 14 Match Moments: SJ steps, steps and steps again
Take the double against the Dolphins. It immediately prompted a mental inquiry about when he had last scored two tries in a match. The answer: All the way back to game #106 of his career in the match the Warriors memorably won 34-28 over the Roosters with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s golden point try in Gosford in 2016; a wait of 136 games.
To that point Johnson had scored 49 tries in those 106 appearances; in the 133 games between his last two doubles there had been just 25 tries. In one stretch spanning the 2019 and 2020 seasons he went 17 games without a try and had 13 try-less matches in the latter part of 2021 and the beginning of 2022.
On Friday night Johnson made it five tries for the season so far, already topping his annual count in any of his previous six campaigns.
Again the clock winds back to his last match double season in 2016 when he finished with 10 tries.
After that his hauls have been four in 2017 and again in 2018, three in 2019, two in 2020, one in 2012 and three in 2022.
Using 2016 as a comparison, drilling down to some other statistics is illuminating, too.
In 24 matches in 2016, Johnson had 18 try assists, 15 line breaks, 24 line break assists and engaged the line 106 times. After only 14 games this year he already has 14 try assists, seven line breaks, 13 line break assists and he has engaged the line 75 times.
In 2016 he had 259 kicks, totalling 6440 metres. This season he tops the list in three kicking categories – most kicks (250), most kicking metres (7712) and most attacking kicks (119), the latter not measured in 2016. Already he has more kicking metres after just 14 games than in his total for any season in his career
It's not all winding back the clock in season number 13 for Johnson. He’s also setting new benchmarks for himself.