Shaun Johnson is under pressure to hang onto his first grade spot. Picture: AAP
Shaun Johnson is under pressure to hang onto his first grade spot. Picture: AAP

‘Fired blanks’: Sharks’ $800k headache facing the axe

Cooper Cronk and Paul Gallen have weighed into the debate about why Shaun Johnson is facing the axe at Cronulla.

 

While Cronk accused the $800,000 playmaker of firing "blanks", Gallen stopped just short of saying Johnson had to go when coach John Morris picks his team to take on St George Illawarra next Sunday.

Gallen questioned if Matt Moylan still has the body to handle the demands of playing fullback.

 

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If not, Gallen said, Moylan and Chad Townsend still needed to be in the team, which would leave Johnson the odd man out in the halves with William Kennedy at fullback.

Townsend missed the win over North Queensland because of a hamstring injury but is expected back this week.

Gallen's comments came after Cronk gave Johnson a massive dressing down in the wake of his performance against the Cowboys.

Cronk is rapidly developing a reputation as a commentator who calls it as he sees it on Fox Sports, and he sure didn't miss Johnson in relation to not owning the big moments.

Johnson had two try assists and ran for 51m but just wasn't a big enough threat running the ball - and he also came up with two shocking kicks at crucial times.

 

 

One was when he failed to find touch from a penalty and another was a poorly executed bomb that resulted in a seven tackle set.

Cronk basically said the Sharks would not improve until Johnson improved, or Morris changed his team.

"Johnson's the key," Cronk told Fox Sports.

"Johnson won the Golden Boot in 2014, signed with the Sharks on a three-year deal - this is his second - and to be honest he's fired blanks since arriving.

 

Johnson has underdelivered in his time at Cronulla. Picture: AAP
Johnson has underdelivered in his time at Cronulla. Picture: AAP

"What sums it up for me is he puts in this kick where he makes the ball torp basically for Mulitalo to score the first try. You sit there on the reverse angle and it bends away from the fullback.

"He made the ball torp for Mulitalo's first try, but then when the game's in the balance he goes for a kick for touch from halfway, shanks it, and five minutes later has another kick with the game in the balance and kicks (it dead for) a seven tackle set.

"He can be the best player in the world but he just doesn't deliver enough for me, and if the Sharks are going to do something this year... you've got enough talent on that list, led by Wade Graham.

"(Chad) Townsend runs through the middle of the field, followed by (Matt) Moylan... but Johnson needs to be the star."

Cooper Cronk (R) didn’t hold back in his Johnson critique. Picture: David Swift.
Cooper Cronk (R) didn’t hold back in his Johnson critique. Picture: David Swift.

Cronk added "when you get to the back end of your career you lose your physicality, you don't want to run the football.

"For Shaun to be a threat with short ball or over the top you need to run, otherwise people don't think you're a threat."

Gallen told Channel 9 where Moylan played would be dependent on what he can handle: "I just want to make it clear I have nothing to do (with selections).

"Will Kennedy is going good. The biggest question you have to ask: Can Matt Moylan's body handle fullback?

"He has had an injury riddled season last year when he was trying to play fullback. He had bad hamstrings, bad calves. If his body can handle fullback I think he will go back to fullback.

Et tu, Gal? Shaun Johnson gives Paul Gallen a helping hand. Picture: Getty
Et tu, Gal? Shaun Johnson gives Paul Gallen a helping hand. Picture: Getty

"But if the club and the trainers don't think he can, look, does he play on the bench like he did last week or is one of them out. Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan or Chad Townsend left out of the side. I'm not too sure."

Brad Fittler commented: "You can't leave Matt Moylan out."

Gallen agreed: "No, you can't. and Chad Townsend is a premiership winning halfback. That game is the first game he has missed in something like 108 games straight for the Sharks. They have both got to be back in the side. It is a big question if Matt Moylan can handle fullback because there is a lot of (kilometres) not only in the match, you've got to do a lot of ks throughout the week at training.

"If his body can handle it I think he will go back to fullback, if not he will be there somewhere."

Originally published as 'Fired blanks': Sharks' $800k headache facing the axe

Matt Moylan made a successful comeback from injury. Picture: AAP
Matt Moylan made a successful comeback from injury. Picture: AAP


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