Benji Marshall stands up for a fellow Kiwi amid calls for the out-of-form Shaun Johnson to retire as the Warriors’ horror year continues.
Former Kiwis teammate Benji Marshall has steadfastly defended Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson amid calls for the NRL veteran to retire at the end of the season.
Johnson has one year left on his current deal with the Warriors, who are struggling in 15th place on the NRL table after six straight defeats and the sacking of coach Nathan Brown.
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Marshall said on Triple M that the Warriors are incorrectly using Johnson as a halfback, which doesn’t suit his game.
“Everyone has this opinion about Shaun and an expectation about the way he plays and I’ve talked about it before… he’s been brought to the Warriors to be a game manager / put their side in a good field position and just kicking the footy, which has never been his forte,” Marshall said.
“I feel like his strength is his running game and if I were them I’d take him to five-eighth.”
The NRL great also had a crack in people urging Johnson to retire. The 31-year-old is in his 12th NRL season and signed a two-year contract with the Warriors from this season.
“Over the weekend, I heard calls for him to think about his retirement — maybe he should think about his legacy and give it away. I say shut up about that. Because that’s up to Shaun,” Marshall said.
“No one can understand how difficult it has been off the pitch for many Warriors players (who moved to Australia because of Covid), especially that Shaun didn’t have his wife and children with him. I think once he makes peace with that and goes back to his family, he can reassess where he is.
“It’s up to him whether he wants to retire or not. I don’t think he should start saying ‘Yeah, I’m done this season’. He’s not ready. If he wants it bad enough, he can come back and do it.
“I feel a little bit about that criticism he gets, okay, we understand he’s not playing his best or the best we’ve seen from him, but that doesn’t mean he should think about retirement.”
During a talk that the Warriors could force Johnson out of his contract by the end of this year, Marshall said that would not be fair.
“That’s okay, but I don’t think it’s fair,” he said. “And if they think about that, maybe find a way to support the man and help him do his best because they’re the ones who signed him.”
This story first appeared on the NZ Herald and is reproduced with permission
Originally published as ‘I say shut up’: Benji Marshall berates critics of under fire NRL star