Vintage seasons: Enjoy the last of the summer wine as Reynolds and Johnson go into full bloom after change of scenery


Leadership comes in many forms and evolves over a career. It is almost always in a player but often untapped by the other personalities in the team and their own fears, insecurities, or pride.

Sometimes a diligent team player feels they must fall in behind more forceful teammates even if they are wrong. Other times a player is blessed with such natural talents it feels beneath them to get into the grind with the less talented teammates.

Some of these players can begin and end their careers without their true potential ever being known because of these limitations. However, on other rare occasions, leadership can blossom late in a career.

A change of environment or father time bestowing the wisdom and confidence to realise their time is short and can mean players realise it’s now or never to go all in.

That is when the good can become great and we get to see the magnificent sight of great players making the most of their talents.

Shaun Johnson is clearly in the form of his career for the NZ Warriors. There is though a lack of analysis of this beyond a Sydney-based media saying he has been “brilliant”.

A short soundbite to explain the Warriors’ surprising season before they move on to the main meal of picking over the entrails of a Sydney based teams failed season.

Johnson has always been one of the games most naturally talented of players. He has always had the ability to create moments of magic to transform a game. However, like many so naturally blessed they can too often rely on that as a substitute for commitment, mental application and grit.

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Also, this can be contagious, with these glittering moments becoming the whole squad’s fool’s gold. Johnson’s first stint of the Warriors had many highlights, but increasingly he went missing from the games, and did not fill those moments between brilliance with hard work on defence and hunger for the ball.

The lesson he learnt from his abrupt ejection from the Warriors and comparatively modest success at the Sharks was clearly that while good, he is not good enough not to care. That is the difference in Johnson this year and as a result he is creating the legacy his rare talent deserves.

Up against Johnson in Brisbane on Saturday is Adam Reynolds. When they signed him, Brisbane knew he was at the back end of his career, but gambled on him because he was the pros’ pro and consummate game-manager.

They just needed his body to hold together enough to pilot a young Brisbane team bursting with talent to the right parts of the field and let them do the rest. They definitely got that, but they also got more; much more.

It is now clear that a team full of big Souths personalities, Reynolds the leader was stifled. At Brisbane he is unleashed. It’s also clear that despite saying it a million times in interviews passed, how lucky he is to be playing top-flight football, his age means he now really believes it.

He also has a coach who, by design or inevitability lets him lead. For this Kevin Walters deserves credit, not scorn, because the humility to let others shine is rare.

The result is that Reynolds has not just been doing the job he was paid for, but time and again, over the last two seasons, he has picked up the whole Broncos team on his creaky shoulders and carried them across the finish line himself.

Not the aloof, cool, calm and collected Rabbitohs Reynolds but the dogged, never-say die fire-brand Broncos version.

He has never played this well because no one has ever challenged him or allowed him to. Stand back and watch in awe.

The sweetness of last of the summer’s wine comes from the unspoken understanding that every sip could be your last. Toast the ‘new’ and brilliant Johnson and Reynolds and savor each drop while you can.

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