NRL 2019: Calls for Shaun Johnson to be dropped by Cronulla Sharks

Sharks legend Luke Lewis has called for coach John Morris to swing the axe on out-of-form halfback Shaun Johnson, after Cronulla slumped to their third straight defeat on Sunday.

Johnson was benched in the 75th minute of the Sharks' 24-22 round 16 loss to the Broncos, a defeat that saw Cronulla drop to eighth on the NRL ladder.

The 28-year-old had just 12 metres from two runs, as well as one tackle break, one error and three missed tackles from 11 attempts against the Broncos.

New Zealand international Johnson is in his first season with the Sharks, signing a three-year deal, after being released by the Warriors last November.

But his first season in Australia hasn't gone to plan, with injuries limiting his game time. 

On top of that, the Sharks have won four games - against the Storm, Titans, Dragons and Eels - without Johnson in their line-up  compared to three - Titans, Cowboys and Panthers - with him playing.

Lewis believes Kyle Flanagan is the better option at five-eighth.

"It's going to be hard for a coach to say, 'we've got a million-dollar player, we can't play him in first grade', but I think [Morris] is going to have to make that big decision and probably put him back there," Lewis told ABC podcast Winning Starts.

"[Morris should] say, 'mate I want you in first grade, but you need to find some confidence going into the next couple of weeks'.

"I think they really have to give him a rocket and say, 'we need you at your best and if you can't, we're going to play this young kid in Kyle Flanagan'. It's hard to swallow, but I think that's the reality.

"I believe Kyle Flanagan really suits Chad Townsend. His [Townsend] game management has probably gone backwards a little bit since Shaun's comeback, purely because Shaun is a dominant player."

Sharks coach Morris said the reason he dropped Johnson in the two-point defeat was down to goal-kicking, as the Sharks have struggled off the tee this season, which has cost them on occasions.

"It's a bit frustrating that I'm making changes around goalkicking," Morris said.

"You shouldn't be thinking like that as a coach. You should be thinking about other parts of your game, but at the moment, we're in a hole there.

"I think we've kicked three from our last 10 - it's more to do with that."

Meanwhile, Johnson's halves partner, Townsend, has stepped in to defend his teammate, saying, "It's not all Shaun's fault".

"Shaun has had a disrupted season with injury, but two weeks ago, he was absolutely outstanding for the Kiwis," Townsend told Fox Sports' NRL Tonight. 

"He scored [two] tries, led them to a great win against Tonga."   

"He's faced a bit of adversity with injury, but Shaun is not to blame for our last three games. Our whole team is taking responsibility.   

"I'm a playmaker too and I take responsibility in that area -it's not all Shaun's fault. We all want to take responsibility, because we're not playing to our potential."   

Despite the criticism, Johnson is expected to play against the Melbourne Storm on Saturday.


Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Broncos NRL clash