28 Nov 2018

Rugby League: Warriors grant Johnson early release

11:13 am on 28 November 2018

The Warriors have granted halfback Shaun Johnson an early release from the final year of his National Rugby League contract with the club.

Johnson requested an early exit from his contract yesterday after being told by the club recently he was free to look elsewhere, the inference being the club wasn't about to offer him a new deal when his current contract expires at the end of next season.

Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson Photo: Photosport

Johnson has played his entire professional career with the Warriors making his NRL debut with the club in 2011.

The situation escalated when the 162-game veteran Johnson returned home from the Kiwis tour of England, pronouncing unhappiness this week that the club he has served since 2011 had made no offer for 2020 and beyond.

The 28-year-old said he had "spread his wings" and was assessing options elsewhere.

Warriors CEO Cameron George said the release was effective immediately.

Warriors CEO Cameron George.

Warriors CEO Cameron George. Photo: Photosport

"Yesterday (head coach) Stephen Kearney, (recruitment manager) Peter O'Sullivan and I met with Shaun and his manager Peter Brown," he said.

"During the meeting Shaun clearly demonstrated to us that he didn't want to be at the club in 2019.

"On the basis of what Shaun told us, we are not going to compromise our culture on and off the field with people who do not wish to represent our club, members and fans in the way we expect.

"Everything we do is about the club being first and what's best for our future, our development and ultimately our results.

"While it's disappointing it has come to this, we must acknowledge the contribution Shaun has made to the Vodafone Warriors. We're proud of what he has achieved at the club and wish him the best for the future."

Johnson's options

Cronulla and Parramatta are possible destinations for the 29-Test Kiwis star while St George Illawarra can't be discounted after news emerged overnight the Dragons' English playmaker Gareth Widdop is seeking a release.

Cronulla were linked to the Kiwis No 7 on Tuesday, given the space in their budget following the departure of [ttps://www.radionz.co.nz/news/sport/376435/holmes-chasing-nfl-dream NFL hopeful Valentine Holmes].

The Sharks wouldn't rule out making a play at the halfback in the future, although they have Shane Flanagan's son Kyle as an up-and-coming playmaker at the club.

They also reached last year's finals with Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend at five-eighth and halfback.

The Sydney Roosters were previously considered another option for Johnson as a replacement for Cooper Cronk, however that space wouldn't open up until the end of next season.

Parramatta are another club who could be in the market for a half at that point, with both Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman off contract at the end of 2019.

The pair have reportedly been shopped around in recent months, with the Eels in a tight fit on their salary cap as shown by their struggles to re-sign Jarryd Hayne before his latest off-field developments.

Regardless, Johnson's departure would leave the Warriors scrambling to find a halfback next year to partner Blake Green.

Their backup for the last two seasons, Mason Lino, has left for the Newcastle Knights.

- RNZ, AAP

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