Shaun Johnson’s future at the Warriors beyond 2019 took a concerning twist on social media on Monday, with the off-contract halfback suggesting the club will not be offering him a new deal.
Warriors CEO Cameron George sent the fertile player movement news cycle into overdrive last month by revealing the club was not hurrying to stitch up the 28-year-old for 2020 and was “not scared about making any big calls on our roster”, apparently giving Johnson their blessing to test his value on the open market.
Johnson was on tour with the Kiwis at the time and the story seemed overblown, with the explosive headlines not quite matching up with George’s relatively tame comments. Optimistic fans remained confident an agreement would be reached over the summer.
But Johnson’s Facebook post – which George refuted on Newshub only a couple of hours later – seemed to claim the Warriors have told him a new contract will not be forthcoming at all, and that he will be seeking out a potential new club.
“Afternoon team!,” Johnson’s post read.
“After reading through a few of your comments on my last post I thought its best I clear a couple things up regarding my situation at this stage with the Warriors.
“Prefer it come from my mouth so nothing can be twisted and portrayed differently.
“Firstly there is no contract for me to sign past 2019.
“Secondly if you saw the article that came out a few weeks back..In a round about way they said they are in no rush to re sign me. Since then they have told me again at this stage they wont be offering me anything.
“That means I get to spread my wings and see what’s out there so right now that’s what I’m doing!
“All of you know how much the warriors mean to me and how grateful I am for the opportunity they have given me to live my dreams and play the sport I love!
“Hope that clears up any confusion..tell ya friends so i stop getting asked the same questions 🙄😂
“No hate, all love as always ✌
“Will keep you posted with what happens next..”
George told Newshub recent attempts to meet with Johnson and his management had been unsuccessful and the Warriors were aiming to set up a face-to-face as soon as possible.
Wherever the truth lies, this latest development was a stark warning of how quickly a contract stand-off can descend into a destabilising influence on a club’s campaign.
Johnson has an army of critics – even among the Warriors’ fanbase – but supporters have rallied behind the No.7 talisman in the wake of his public statement. Coming off arguably his most consistent season as the club ended a seven-year finals drought, the enigmatic playmaker has made 162 NRL appearances for the Warriors, scoring 63 tries and a record 917 points.
The lack of top-quality halves on the market makes Johnson hot property – with Canberra, Cronulla and Sydney Roosters touted as suitable new homes – while replacement options for the Warriors appear thin on the ground. Erratic Parramatta pair Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses have been bandied about as possible recruits to partner veteran Blake Green in the last season of his three-year deal, with Wests Tigers’ Luke Brooks and North Queensland’s Te Maire Martin the only other high-profile halves coming off-contract.
The Warriors granted valuable back-up Mason Lino a release to join Newcastle soon after the 2018 season finished, but highly-rated former Canterbury and Penrith lower-grade half Adam Keighran linked with the club in late-October.
The 19-year-old Chanel Harris-Tavita is an exciting prospect but most likely needs more than one more season to develop into an NRL-ready shot-caller.