Hannay hits out at Johnson's NRL critics

Cronulla coach Josh Hannay has asked critics to back off playmaker Shaun Johnson.
Cronulla coach Josh Hannay has asked critics to back off playmaker Shaun Johnson.

Cronulla coach Josh Hannay has launched an impassioned defence of Shaun Johnson, whom he has credited for the Sharks being in the finals hunt.

Johnson copped barrels of criticism after he missed nine tackles and barely ran the ball in last week's loss to Canberra, prompting questions over his commitment after signing with the Warriors.

Cronulla desperately need Johnson to rebound against Canterbury on Sunday after being shocked by the Bulldogs earlier this year, with a win enough to take them back into the top eight.

But while Hannay was insistent Johnson had been one of the Sharks' best in recent months before his off night, he is frustrated over the treatment of the 30-year-old.

"I hate that about our culture and society and our industry. We just seem to love to tear people down," Hannay said.

"Everyone has a bad day. Inconsistency is one of the most common human behaviours. And Shaun had a night where he wasn't at his best.

"But the response and coverage around someone having a bad day in our game, I find it really unhealthy.

"I don't know if they consider the impact it has on those they are talking about.

"Shaun is a strong character but at the same time people have to realise at the moment Shaun is a family man.

"He is thousands of miles from his family (in the Queensland hub). He is going to miss his daughter's first birthday ... he was pretty flat at the moment to be fair.

"The pile on doesn't help people who are dealing with a lot in this environment."

Hannay made a point to talk to Johnson about the criticism this week, reassuring him he was not concerned about his overall form.

The former Kiwi Test half struggled on return from an achilles injury this year, but after coming back from a subsequent hamstring blow in round 12 he has won four of six games.

"He has worn the brunt of our performance last week. But as I said to him he has been a real catalyst for us turning our season around," Hannay said.

"People forget that in the consistency we were able to play with in the six weeks prior to last week, he was just such a catalyst to our game.

"The same people who criticised him on the weekend were probably the same ones saying how good he had been playing.

"I've got no doubt Shaun Johnson will be up for this weekend."

Meanwhile Hannay said halves partner Matt Moylan could return next week for the Sharks, but veteran centre Will Chambers won't enter the team straight away on returning to the bubble.

Australian Associated Press