SHAUN Johnson's quiet outing on Monday night was not injury-related but the result of the young star being targeted for special attention from the Eels' defence.
Rumours swirled during the buildup to the 36-20 victory that Johnson was carrying an injury, however the Warriors' halfback insists he was and still is injury-free.
"I feel pretty good. I feel better than I did last year," Johnson said.
Although he closely monitors a back complaint that surfaced during pre-season training in 2011, Johnson has had no trouble with it this season.
"It feels good. I just keep rehabbing it and keep doing my core work and hopefully it will stay good."
The injury rumour that spread last week appears to have started after Feleti Mateo tweeted Johnson asking him about "twist step hip". Rather than a reference to an injury, Johnson said Mateo was teasing him about the step he put on to set up Manu Vatuvei's opening try against Manly.
"He was just giving me a bit of stick for that one last week where I put Manu in for that try," Johnson said. "He's just been mocking me about it, saying 'you've got sore hips' and stuff like that."
Johnson lived up to his star billing in the season-opener at Eden Park, running seven times for 62m, scoring a try, notching three try assists, two offloads and a linebreak. His quiet night on Monday - when he received the ball 37 times but ran just three times for a total of 11m and didn't break a tackle or produce a single offload, line break or try assist - was down to being targeted by the Eels' defence.
"It was the first time I have really felt that a team was cracking down on me," he said. "They were calling me out and shooting up on me. Hopefully them doing that leaves James [Maloney] with a bit more space to play and I thought he played really well on Monday night.
"It is going to happen more and more and you've just got to adapt to it. I'm not always going to have the space that I like but I guess it is how I play against that sort of pressure. I'm more than happy to just drop people off and let Jimmy do all the glory stuff."
After playing second fiddle to Johnson against Manly, Maloney exploded against the Eels, scoring a try, creating two others and kicking six conversions from six attempts.
"They complement each other really well," coach Brian McClennan said. "They've got different styles. Parramatta really pushed some numbers to the right edge to defend Shaun but Shaun managed the game really well. Any time he gets tied up it can leave you exposed to Jimmy Maloney and that is what happened."
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