Defiant Johnson shrugs off critics
Under-fire Cronulla playmaker Shaun Johnson has fended off calls for his axing ahead of his planned return to New Zealand to face his former club for the first time on Friday night.
Johnson is battling to overcome an ankle injury in time to face the Warriors as the injury ravaged Sharks look to turn around a dramatic drop in form.
The Sharks are expected to name Johnson in their side this afternoon, despite the five-eighth leaving Melbourne in a moon boot following last Saturday night's loss to the Storm, their fourth straight defeat.
Despite the setback, Johnson - a high-profile off-season recruit - conceded he always expected it to take time to gel at his new club.
"To be honest there have been elements of my game in the past few weeks that I've been happy with," Johnson said. "Obviously I've been under the pump a bit with results and then linking those results with me.
"I try and show up to training with the best attitude. I try and find ways to improve.
"It's been difficult for the fact I'm a cog in what is a new spine. I've always said it's never going to be smooth sailing. I was always prepared for it to be tough.
"I would love for it to go smooth. I would love to come in and produce what I know I can produce but unfortunately it's taken a bit of time.
"I have to be patient with it and I just have to understand that it will click. I'm confident it will click.
"When it does hopefully we can play some good footy and definitely make a run."
The Sharks have won just three of the 10 games Johnson has started, with calls for youngster Kyle Flanagan to replace the Kiwi star in the starting team.
Johnson has played under scrutiny for most of his career as he carried the fortunes of the Warriors during his eight-year stint at the club.
"The last few weeks have been tough," Johnson said. "The Sharks are a successful and tough footy side. The expectations at the Sharks is they should win most games. I understand that. I'm not naive to that.
"If I just draw it back to what I can control and that's me showing up with the best attitude and wanting to train well and improve my game. That's all I'm trying to do.
"For me (the criticism and calls for his axing is) outside noise. I don't give energy to it. If I do that then I'm taking it away from what I can control.
"Regardless of what the media writes that's not going to change my mindset going into Cronulla every week.
"I'm sure if I stick at it and improve my game then all that noise should die down at some stage."
Johnson showed glimpses of his best during Cronulla's last-start loss to the Storm. He scored a great solo try and took the line on better than he had in recent weeks.
He ran for 55 metres compared to just 11 in Cronulla's previous match against the Broncos.
"I thought my running game was non-existent," Johnson said. "I wanted to showcase that."
Cronulla have dropped out of the top eight following four straight losses and are preparing to play the Warriors without Paul Gallen, Wade Graham and Josh Dugan, while Matt Moylan and Josh Morris are also in doubt.
Johnson will square off against the Warriors for the first time since his shock exit from the club at the end of last year.
He wanted the match to be in Auckland but the Warriors have taken their home game to Wellington.
"It'll be fun," Johnson said. "It depends if they boo me.
"I have no expectations about going back there. I understand it's a business. I am just focusing on going over there and playing well for the Sharks"