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Dream Team Builder: Shaun Johnson

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 11:00 AM
Source: SportsFan

Club: Warriors

Last year's average: 42.68
Last year's high score:

Positives: Johnson is a New Zealand international and one of the most talented young halves in rugby league; a fleet-footed former touch football star who on his day can dance his way past opponents at will.

His ball-running ability and knack for finding the tryline mean he's been capable of posting the occasional big Dream Team score in the past couple of years, but they key for Johnson this season is his increasing role as the Warriors' chief playmaker.

Johnson took on more of the kicking in general play last year – a job that had been primarily left to halves partner James Maloney in 2011 – and with Maloney now gone the halfback is likely to take on even more of the kicking duties this season (and with it, more kick-metre Dream Team points).

Maloney's absence will also leave Johnson with the goalkicking duties at the Warriors. For a player who has scored primarily through tackles and tackle breaks in the past couple of years, the additions of goals and extra kick metres could propel Johnson into the elite group of Dream Team playmakers.

His improvement so far in his NRL career has been solid: Johnson averaged 37 Dream Team points a game in his rookie 2011 season and 43 points a game last year, and will be great value if he can get that average up towards 50 this campaign.

While he's not the cheapest Dream Team half going around, he is cheaper than a dozen other front-line halves. Johnson's one of the few playmakers in NRL Dream Team who could become a consistent high scorer while also getting some big price rises this season.

Negatives: The reason why the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans and Cooper Cronk are priced in the mid-$400,000s in Dream Team is that they've shown something in the past that Johnson has not: consistency.

The player who can mesmerise defences and score himself a hat trick one week can also cough up handling errors and miss half a dozen tackles the next. Regular kick metres and goals will alleviate that problem a little, but the young gun will also need to continue to become a more reliable player if he's going to join the game's elite halves.

Regardless, Johnson's value as a Dream Team gun will still rely on how the Warriors use their other halves. If new signing Thomas Leuluai takes a dominant playmaking role or even just splits the general kicking duties with Johnson, then Johnson's scores and price are unlikely to climb much at all. Youngster Harry Seijka is another promising playmaker and could rise to the fore later in the season.

Risk rating: Picking Johnson is a gamble – based on last year's performances he's a slightly above-average Dream Team scorer, and by giving him a spot in your squad you'll have less room to fit in a real Dream Team gun or a genuinely cheap cash cow.

But if his scores improve as expected, Johnson could be a handy combination of the two – a player capable of posting regular 50+ scores while also giving your squad a healthy cash boost. He's not somebody you'll necessarily want to keep in your squad all season but if you're spooked by the lofty price tags of Cherry-Evans and Cronk then the little Warriors dynamo could be a smart bet.

Two Matt Orfords*. 

2 Matt Orfords

*BigPond Sport's patented risk scale ranks players out of five Matt Orfords, with five Orfords representing maximum risk and one Orford being a low-risk player.

Follow BigPond Sport on Twitter: @bigpondsport

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