Shaun Johnson has revealed how his Achilles injury will change his game, shaping a new version of the Test superstar.
Cronulla Sharks star Shaun Johnson has revealed he has no plans to “slow down any time soon” despite admitting he may need to tweak his game following a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Johnson, 30, had his 2020 campaign cut short due to an Achilles injury suffered in Round 19 in a season that saw him come close to Dally M Player of the Year status.
The New Zealand international was awarded the Porter Gallen Medal for Player of the Year at Cronulla, while also finishing equal first in the NRL on the try assists leaderboard with 23 to his name despite featuring in just 16 games for the interrupted season.
Opening up on his recovery from a torn Achilles, which can typically take upwards of nine months to return from, Johnson revealed his recovery had been tracking along nicely as he keeps a midseason comeback date in mind.
“Recovery is going good. It’s a pretty slow-healing injury. It feels good, but I haven’t done anything to push it yet. I’m a while off running, but so far so good,” Johnson told Wide World of Sports.
“I’m just listening to the physio and surgeon, and their dates align to that sort of [Round 8- 10] timeline.
“That’s what I’m working for, if things are going good, we will push it forward a bit, but if things go bad, we will push it down a bit. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself in trying to rush it back, just for the sake of getting back to whatever deadline I’m given.
“I’m going to make sure I’m feeling pretty fit and strong before I take to the field.
“I’m not doing anything out on the field, I’m not there yet.
“All my work is in the gym. I feel like I’ve done a million calf raises. All my fitness is in what we call the ‘the chamber’ – a little room that has quadbikes, rowing machines, ellipticals and SkiErgs.”
Crowned the Golden Boot winner in 2014 as the world’s best international player, Johnson throughout his career has established himself as one of the NRL’s most entertaining playmakers through his crafty footwork, speed and ability to run with the ball and create for others.
While the former New Zealand Warrior declared he is confident he can overcome his latest setback and come back “better and stronger”, Johnson admitted he may need to adapt and tweak his game style to once again play at an elite level in the NRL.
“Yeah, I am [confident I can get back to last year’s form],” he added.
“The more I think about, it’s not so much about getting back to that [form], it’s where do I go.
“I feel like there were many areas of my game that I was proud about but there’s also areas I know I can be better in.
“I’m not looking to come back and be the old Shaun Johnson, I know my game will probably be a bit different from now on – my injury might not allow me to do some of the things I want to do.
“I might have to make some adaptations, I’m not sure but it doesn’t mean I can’t get back better and stronger.
“I’m not looking to slow down any time soon.”
When asked how he can continue to improve and find ways to get better, Johnson said his biggest concern was to focus on playing consistent footy week in and week out.
“Consistency is the big part of my game, which I put a lot of thought into and use some tools around helping me to stay level headed – not fluctuate too high or too low below a performance line,” he added.
“That’s something I’m going to continue working on.
“I’m not fully satisfied I’ve clocked that, but I definitely see it as a tool which will help me be in more games at a higher level.
“That’s the one area I will look to continue to put more work into [for season 2021].”
What remains to be seen now is where Johnson will slot into once he full recovers with fellow playmaker Matt Moylan looking to find his form again.
Like Johnson, who played the majority of season 2020 at No.6 with Chad Townsend taking up the halfback duties, Moylan is also eyeing a spot in Cronulla’s halves and has been spending his off-season training in the same position as the Kiwis star.
“My whole pre-season – I’ve been training at No.6 and I’ve enjoyed that,” he also told Wide World of Sports.
“In saying that, Shaun had a good year last year – obviously he will come back from injury.
“Whatever happens down the track happens, my focus is just being ready to play each week.
“I haven’t been able to do that for a few years and that’s my focus and whatever comes off the back of that happens. I’m pretty confident with the work I’ve done with the coaching staff that I will be in a good position to play each week.”
Moylan, who’s played just 19 games over the past two seasons due to an ongoing hamstring issue, said his recovery has been better than ever before.
The former Blues and Test star revealed this time around he’s changed his approach to training and is confident he’s put the work in to get him in the best possible shape for this season.
“It’s been good [the body],” Moylan said.
“Disappointing last couple of years not being able to string footy together and get on top of them [injuries] – but I feel like I have this off season.
“I’ve been able to do a lot of the training this pre-season and it’s been good. The body is feeling good and if I can keep building on that, it will help me going into this season.
“It is just frustrating [the injury battle].
“I felt like I kept putting in the work to get on top it, but I didn’t realise what I had to do and how much work it probably was to get on top of it.
“I had to try a few different things in terms of changing up training this off season and going about that In a different way and coming back in better shape.”
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