Dan the man for Sharks' in-form Johnson

Cronulla star Shaun Johnson has credited part of his strong form this year to the NRL club's mental health coach, Dan Haesler.

SHAUN JOHNSON of the Kiwis.
SHAUN JOHNSON of the Kiwis. Picture: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

He's listed in Shaun Johnson's phone as "Dan - Mental coach".

And he's the person Cronulla star Johnson credits for having him in arguably the best mental shape of his NRL career.

Johnson, the season leader in try assists, believes he has never felt fitter or healthier over his 10 years in the game.

But it's the off-field work he's put into addressing the emotional and intellectual aspects of the game that has made a major difference in his game this season.

"I probably haven't felt this, in terms of my body, fit and strong in my career but that's only one part of it. The mental space is just as important," Johnson said.

Widely considered among the most in-form playmakers in the competition, Johnson recalled a time when he felt more confident on a football field.

"There was patches back when I was playing for the Warriors that I remember feeling just in total control," he said.

But when it comes to equipping himself to handle the emotional roller coaster of the season, the New Zealand international has gone to a new level.

And he credits that to the club's mental health coach in Dan Haesler.

"I've been speaking to him regularly," Johnson said.

"Nothing crazy, nothing serious.

"He doesn't try preach on me. He just gets me thinking about things,

"I think it's just so important for all players, with the way the media is at the moment, and some of the stuff that's coming out about people, it's so important.

"More now than ever."

Johnson was pivotal in the Sharks' thrilling win over St George Illawarra last week, scoring a try and having a hand in two others.

While he also forced three line dropouts in a stellar display, the 29-year-old remained determined not to get carried away by any plaudits from coach John Morris.

"Did he tell you I got a couple wrong? I thought they swung the game," he said.

"There was a couple in the second half there, one was a chargedown... With the chargedown, I thought it was a real momentum-swinger.

"It's funny, you get three right but the one you get wrong could've really cost us.

"There's something there for me to certainly look at and get right next time."