Shaun Johnson v Nathan Cleary.
Shaun Johnson v Nathan Cleary.

SuperCoach NRL Death Match: Cleary v Johnson

IN the second of our SuperCoach 'Death Match' series, we pit digital NRL editor Dominic Burke against against NRL SuperCoach editor Tom Sangster arguing the merits of their favourite premium halfback.

SHAUN JOHNSON - Dominic Burke

Shaun Johnson has been a SuperCoach superstar for virtually his entire career.

And now he's playing for a good team.

Forget about the Sharks' off-field woes, on paper Cronulla remain a strong side and are certainly an upgrade on the Warriors teams Johnson has had to guide in recent seasons.

Johnson is 28 and entering the prime of his rugby league career, and now gets to play behind one of the most consistently solid packs in the NRL.


Likewise, fears about how gun halves struggle at new clubs can be ignored: Johnson will be playing alongside his former Warriors teammate Chad Townsend.

Johnson will ply his trade with the Sharks for 2019. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Johnson will ply his trade with the Sharks for 2019. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

When they teamed up in 2014-15, SJ averaged about 70 points per game.

SJ is all class and a no-brainer selection for SuperCoach.

And despite this, he somehow comes into the season as a POD at approximately half the ownership of Cleary (14 per cent ownership to 25 per cent).

NATHAN CLEARY - Tom Sangster

The NSW Origin champion is the most popular keeper option at halfback for one simple reason - reliability.

Cleary has the best base stats of any No. 7 in SuperCoach history. In games not affected by injury last year, Cleary scored below 50 just twice. He had a low score of 36.

Cleary could become the best halfback in SuperCoach.
Cleary could become the best halfback in SuperCoach.

This consistency isn't just confined to last season - his career yearly averages of 66, 70 and 62 make for sweet reading.

What's more, Cleary is actually underpriced this season. His worth is based on a 62 average, but when injury-affected games are removed his average swells to 68.5.

Johnson is the best halfback in SuperCoach over the last half decade and arguably of all time. However, he moves from the flee-flowing Warriors to the stodgy, forward-based Sharks.

And as colleague Tim Williams points out, playmakers at new clubs last year saw a 10 point drop in average over their first five games. Johnson is a must-have at some stage, but wait for a price drop.