New Zealand halfback Shaun Johnson can’t escape the lofty expectations that come with the Golden Boot.
But there is one thing that has escaped him – the trophy itself.
Five months after he was recognised by Rugby League World magazine as the world’s best player in 2014, Johnson is yet to physically receive his own Golden Boot.
A controversial winner after steering the Kiwis to their impressive Four Nations triumph last year, Johnson joked that the powers that be might be “regretting” their decision.
Whatever the case, he certainly doesn’t feel like the world’s best player – particularly after a less-than-impressive start to the NRL season with the Warriors.
“I think people get confused,” Johnson said on Monday.
“A lot of people think I picked myself for that award or that I asked for it or something.
“At the time I said I was very humbled to receive that award but I definitely didn’t think I was the best player in the world.
“But since then, everyone’s expectations have risen and maybe that’s because they think I can do something … which I think I can too.”
Johnson doesn’t even feel like the best player in his position, labelling Kangaroos halves Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk as the “benchmark”.
But he does feel somewhat aggrieved at the criticism and focus on his own form in the lead-up to Friday night’s Anzac Test at Suncorp Stadium.
“It’s quite funny – obviously I’m well aware of what everyone’s saying about me,” Johnson said.
“I get tweeted it, I get tagged in it – it’s everywhere.
“People think I don’t see it but it’s pretty hard to miss.
“For me, I’m building. I have been each game.
“I started the season pretty slow and I guess not up to everyone’s expectations once I got given that Golden Boot award.”
Johnson said there was only one set of opinions that mattered to him – those of his teammates and coaches.
“I’ve been reassured by them that they’re happy with how I’m going,” he said.
“There’s a certain level that I expect myself to play at every week and although I haven’t been there, I think I’m certainly not as far off as what people are making me feel like at times.
“I’ve always had high expectations of the way I think I can play.
“Just because I’ve received that award, that hasn’t changed anything for me.
“I’ll get there.”