Shaun Johnson is under contract with the New Zealand Warriors until the end of the 2014 season. That hasn’t stopped the Penrith Panthers from making the young halfback a massive offer that would make him one of the highest paid players in the game.
There has been a lot of speculation about Johnson’s future at the the Warriors ever since Ivan Cleary left the club to join the Panthers. Cleary has targeted a number of his former players at the Warriors to bolster the Panthers stocks. There is no doubt Johnson would be by far and away his biggest prize.
Every time I talk to anyone that deals with Shaun Johnson they tell me he is a nice young bloke. That he is a great role model for people around him. That he is loyal and that he would remain in New Zealand if the Warriors went out of their way to lock him up.
That is the problem though. We have seen over time that the Warriors don’t really know when to lock up an important player or coach when they have them on their books already.
I really rate Shaun Johnson. He reminds me a little of Benji Marshall, but I believe he is a better all round player than Marshall was at the same age.
Right now as a young halfback he is still learning certain aspects of the game. He still doesn’t quite take control of the Warriors like a great halfback should and he occasionally looks to pass the ball a little too much. That is all normal, and over time I have no doubt he will work it all out. At his age though, he is a test halfback. He has played in a Grand Final. He has already archived so much.
So what the hell are the Warriors waiting for?
The Penrith Panthers know that if they get Johnson on their books the halfback position is sorted. Shaun Johnson could play halfback for the Panthers for the next decade. The Panthers are ready to invest in Johnson and I can’t understand why the Warriors are not ready to make the same commitment.
If rumours are true, the Warriors are going to make Sam Tomkins one of the highest paid players in the game when he arrives for the 2014 season. How Tomkins plays in the NRL is anyone’s guess.
Considering that Tomkins is a fullback, and the Warriors already have two very good fullbacks on their books for next season, his signing is a strange one. They have committed a lot already to Tomkins, and trust me, Tomkins will not be a New Zealand Warrior for a very long time. He will play there for a few seasons and then will likely switch to Rugby Union.
With Johnson, there are no concerns. He is there already. He likes playing for the Warriors. Surely Johnson is the player the Warriors should be committing their long term future to.
If the Warriors are unwilling to commit to Johnson, they should allow him to leave as they did Ivan Cleary. The money on offer at the Panthers is too good to refuse and if the Warriors keep waiting for much longer eventually Johnson will do his sums and realize he can move his family to the foot of the blue mountains and secure their long term future.
It would not shock me if this all happened sooner rather than later. When you start talking to players about a contract worth more than $2 million dollars, that type of thing just doesn’t go away.
As always, I like to see players stick with one club. There comes a point though when a club doesn’t deserve a player if they are to slow to lock them up long term. Johnson wants to remain at the Warriors….what the hell are they waiting for? Lock him up or be prepared for him to ask for a release.
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