Auto Poster Why former Warrior Shaun Johnson knocked back the Roosters

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Apr 23, 2013

Shaun Johnson says he left the Warriors with his head held high.

Shaun Johnson reckons the easy thing to do was to do nothing.

To go through the motions, see out his lucrative Warriors contract and then take up one of several appealing options for the following season – including an invitation to become the long-term replacement for Cooper Cronk at the Roosters.

"Of course [it was hard to knock back]," Johnson said of the of the chance to join the premiers in 2020. "They're a successful club and the heart of Sydney with a good profile. They've got good players, so it's definitely tempting.

"But as I've said, the easy thing would've been to stay on my contract and time it to join the Roosters [once Cronk retires]. But I hope people realise that maybe there is more to this than just that. People think, 'Oh he had a sook and he's chasing the money,' but it's not that at all."

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Johnson has long been the posterboy for rugby league in New Zealand. The Golden Boot recipient has also been synonymous with the Warriors, the star playmaker in his nation's only NRL side.

But in the space of a few short weeks a relationship that has spanned eight seasons spectacularly unravelled to the point where neither party wanted it to continue.


Warriors chief executive Cameron George speaks to the media at Mt Smart Stadium on Wednesday.

After being told he wasn't part of the club's long-term plans, Johnson asked for, and was granted, an immediate release from the final year of his contract to join Cronulla.

The Warriors have had their say on the situation, their CEO Cameron George declaring in a scathing press release the club is "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."

That they would part with the Kiwis No.7 before they had even secured an adequate replacement - although Stuff can reveal they have made inquiries about Gold Coast young gun AJ Brimson - shows how ugly things had become.


Rooster halfback Cooper Cronk is likely to retire after the 2019 season.

"I probably could have stayed one year, but how engaged and how much contribution I was able to give after hearing what had been said and knowing how the Warriors felt about me, that was the bit that made me go, 'I don't want to waste a year because we don't have too long in this game'," Johnson said.

Ironically, Johnson was leaving just as the Warriors appeared to have turned a corner. The trans-Tasman outfit had finally made the finals for the first time in seven seasons, Dragons forward Leeson Ah Mau was about to bolster the squad and there appeared to be a period of relative off-field stability.


Warriors coach Stephen Kearney and talent scout Peter O'Sullivan.

"I know deep down that I gave it a crack," Johnson said. "Regardless of what the CEO says, who has been there a year or two, it dates back a lot longer than me.

"I've been there eight years and had six coaches. So the sixth coach didn't like me. So what? You know what I mean? I rode the tough time, I gave it a crack. I tried to keep fans engaged in their seats, I tried to play a style of footy that was going to get kids excited every week.

"I know that, my family knows that and the people who know me know that, which is why I can say no, it doesn't really affect me."


The Warriors have made inquires about Titans youngster AJ Brimson.

The Raiders and Roosters quickly moved to sign Johnson. However, Cronulla was always the destination of choice.

The 28-year-old has experience alongside fellow half Chad Townsend, he will play behind a pack that includes Aaron Woods, Paul Gallen, Matt Prior, Andrew Fifita and Wade Graham and coach Shane Flanagan went out of his way to show him the love he felt he wasn't getting across the ditch.

It mean making a significant salary sacrifice – "Oh yeah, I was on a good wicket for next year" – but it was a price Johnson was prepared to pay in the belief his chances of premiership success would increase.


Warriors CEO Cameron George made it clear he was disappointed with Shaun Johnson's attitude.

"It's come at a really good time," he said. "I was getting to a point in my career, I'm 28 now, just over 150 games - I think it's going to give me a new lease on life, a little spark, somewhere new, working with players with such experience that have played at real elite levels … All that stuff with the Warriors is done now."

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