Warriors coach Andrew Webster explains why Shaun Johnson’s game is at a new level

Warriors coach Andrew Webster hailed the 32-30 win over the Sharks on Sunday as one of the greatest victories he’s ever been involved in, while he couldn’t be happier for Shaun Johnson.

The 32-year-old halfback cooly nailed the penalty in the final minute of the game to put the Warriors in front for the first time, as once again the club veteran produced a man of the match performance.

Johnson admitted he didn’t play well last season, when he made an emotional return to the Warriors.

But this year he’s been playing some of the best footy of his entire career and after years when the Warriors haven’t had someone standing up to make something happen in the big moment, Johnson has become the person to do just that.

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“Shaun has become this unbelievable leader,” Webster said after the game, still buzzing from what he’d just witnessed.

“He’s always been a fantastic player. His leadership in the last couple of weeks around what he wants for the team, the way he leads with his action around tough stuff.

Shaun Johnson and Bayley Sironen celebrate one of the Warriors greatest ever wins in Cronulla on Sunday.

Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Shaun Johnson and Bayley Sironen celebrate one of the Warriors greatest ever wins in Cronulla on Sunday.

“No one was running shapes at Shaun today because they knew he could hold his gloves up.

“The way he got us around, the way he stuck to the plan, he didn’t go away from it when we were behind.

“He didn’t try to throw it around. He was like ‘this is what we’ve decided the plan was’, he stuck to it and we got results from it.”

Throughout his career, Johnson has dealt with criticism. When the Warriors do badly, the finger is always pointed at him first.

But in this golden period of his career, Johnson is taking his game to another level.

“I feel like the criticism on Shaun is harsh,” Webster said.

“If you think about what he’s achieved. A Golden Boot winner, he’s won Four Nations, he’s won a World Cup.

“I know he hasn’t done it the way he would have liked at club level, but Shaun doesn’t care about that anymore.

“I feel like he’s so comfortable in his own skin that he doesn’t have to prove [anything] to anyone outside the club dressing room.

“He doesn’t care what people say, he’s home with his family, he’s happy off the field and when Shaun’s happy he plays well.

Shaun Johnson no longer cares about what his critics say.

Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Shaun Johnson no longer cares about what his critics say.

“He doesn’t care about the criticism or people saying he should retire, or he’s not good enough.

“Shaun just cares about what the dressing room and the staff think about him and that’s how he plies his trade and he’s earning respect every day because of it.”

As for the incredible win at PointsBet Stadium, where the Warriors were down 20-0 after 18 minutes, Webster praised the players’ willingness to keep fighting.

“The boy’s attitude to never giving up is something different, it’s crazy how good it is,” Webster said.

“We keep making it hard, but we must love it for some reason. I don’t know why and I’m looking forward to an 80-minute performance.

“But the one thing I’ll leave here with today is that this was one of the best wins I’ve been a part of. For different reasons.

“That is that they never gave up. At half-time we felt really good about it, we clawed our way back a bit before half-time and as a staff in the box, we were really calm, we walked down and left the sheds with a bit of belief and the rest is history.”

Most of the credit has gone to Webster for the turnaround at the club this year. But the rookie head coach says everyone’s contributed to make a difference.

“It’s not just me, our staff have been unbelievable. I’m so happy for them, they’ve worked so hard,” Webster said.

“We’re a different club, we’ve got new recruits, we’ve got the best players who’ve hung around.

“We’ve got new staff, back home in New Zealand there’s lots of ambition. We just don’t want to sit on the bottom. We don’t want to make excuses for anything. We want to have a crack and we’re a different club.

“What’s in the past everyone keeps talking about it and that’s fair enough, because everyone thinks we’ll fall over soon and after 15 minutes they probably thought today’s the day.

“But the boys had different ideas.”