Johnson's sage advice for rookie Sharks

Shaun Johnon is relishing another NRL finals experience to cap his first season at Cronulla.
Shaun Johnon is relishing another NRL finals experience to cap his first season at Cronulla.

At 29 years of age, Shaun Johnson doesn't feel old.

But that doesn't mean he is lacking the wisdom to know that embarking on an NRL finals campaign won't come around nearly as often as you want.

Of the 179 games Johnson has played since making his debut in 2011, four of his five finals matches have been played in September.

The other was on that fateful first Sunday in October against Manly during his rookie season.

"It's weird. When you look back on your career and you think of the times that you've missed and made the finals," Johnson begins.

"All those bad times, all the good times... you get to these points and you can really appreciate it more than anything.

"When I came through in 2011, it just happened so quick. Man, so quick. And now that you're in this position again, you really just don't want to waste it."

Johnson, of course, played all five of those finals games with the Warriors, where he was arguably the biggest rugby league star in the country.

The New Zealand international sensationally parted ways with the club last summer after being deemed unable to lead them to premiership glory.

Less than a year on and Johnson is in the finals, and the Warriors are planning for 2020.

So with another finals experience looming, Johnson is qualified to brief five Sharks who are about to encounter their first post-season, to a point.

"You can say all you want to some of the young boys, but it's just one ear and out the other. They're just going to ride it as hard as they can," Johnson admitted.

"And I say that because I remember (former Warriors teammate) Lance Hohaia telling me in 2011, 'Shauny, it goes quick'.

"He was playing in a grand final in his last year, and the only other time he made the GF was his first year in 2002. So it was 10 years for him.

"I remember him telling me that and I was like, 'Yeah bro, yeah bro. Sweet'."

After going down in that decider against Manly - who the Sharks face in their elimination final on Saturday - Johnson didn't return to the finals until the Warriors snuck in eighth 12 months ago.

So his advice now for the likes of Bronson Xerri and Briton Nikora, the latter of whom made his Kiwis debut this year?

"I'm just going to let them enjoy it. Let them roll in it. It's exciting, we need that excitement. We need that buzz back," he said.

"For some of the boys that have maybe experienced different things throughout their career, we handle it a little differently. So, each to their own."

Australian Associated Press