He is yet to fully flex his attacking muscle in 2017, but Shaun Johnson has the potential to join the greatest point-scorers in rugby league history according to Warriors and Kiwis legend Stacey Jones.
Earlier this year Johnson surpassed Jones’ 674 points to become the all-time highest scorer at the Warriors, despite being in only his seventh year as an NRL player and fifth as a goalkicker at that level.
Across 141 career games to date Johnson averages over five points per match, and this year sits eighth among the competition’s top scorers.
According to Jones, who now works as an assistant coach to Stephen Kearney at the Warriors, Johnson’s name could sit among the game’s elite by the time his career is over.
“He can get up to the Thurston and Cameron Smith 2000-point mark by the time he finishes for the club,” Jones said.
“Shaun, since he has been in the team, has pretty much always sort of been first-choice goalkicker and is always thereabouts in terms of the leading try-scorers each year.
“If Shaun stays healthy and wants to keep goal kicking, without a doubt, and if the club is successful as far as being a regular in the play-offs, then why not?
“He is our best goalkicker and he should keep doing it. I hope he can achieve that, it will mean this club has done some pretty special things.
“The key thing for him is being healthy… I know Shaun has had niggling injuries which have hampered him from time to time.”
So far this year Johnson has four tries and is enjoying his most accurate season as a goalkicker, currently boasting a 77.7 per cent success rate with 12 misses from 54 attempts.
— NRL (@NRL) July 1, 2017
Kicking coach Daryl Halligan, who has worked with Johnson through his entire professional career, says the biggest difference in 2017 has been the 26-year-old’s improved run with injuries.
“It [injury] does have a big effect… you can get away with missing a week here and there but if you are getting to sort of three weeks where an injury is hurting you it will start to change you [in terms of kicking],” Halligan said.
“He’s had a bit more of a free rein with his kicking this year, last year he was pretty much hampered by injuries, so it was stop-start in terms of when he could practice and kick.”
Former Kiwi Halligan is one of only six players currently in the ‘2000-point club’, and remains one of the greatest goalkickers the Australian game has seen.
The ex-North Sydney Bears and Canterbury Bulldogs winger said in terms of technique, Johnson is in the top group of active players.
“He strikes the ball as good as anyone in the competition,” Halligan said.
“This year has been pretty good, he’s having a good run with it this year.
“With Shaun he has a pretty basic action, doesn’t try and do too much. There’s always balance issues and no player is ever perfect.
“Five or six years ago I did more with him, now he more or less knows what he is doing. It’s just about finding some key points and reiterating them to him and seeing how they are going.”