Johnson was more concerned with respect than big wages. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Johnson was more concerned with respect than big wages. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Johnson’s sacrifice to join Sharks

SHAUN Johnson took a six-figure pay cut to join Cronulla for a shot at winning an elusive NRL premiership.

Johnson revealed the staggering contrast of inclusiveness at Cronulla, compared to years of being "left out" of all discussions about the Warriors' playing rosters.

The former Golden Boot winner conceded there was hurt over how the Warriors hierarchy orchestrated his ugly and premature release after eight years at the club, but he would easily "move on."

"People want to talk about why they believe I left, 'because he's chasing the money, or had a sook and wanted out','' Johnson said on Thursday.

Johnson said the "easy thing'' would have been to stay at the Warriors for the final year of his contract and join the Roosters after Cooper Cronk retires at the end of 2019.

"I was on a good wicket next year,'' Johnson said.

"That's probably been the most frustrating thing. If it was about money, you just stay.

"But it's about feeling valued and like you can add something and feeling like you can improve as a player.

"And ultimately, I didn't feel that if I had stayed next year.

"I've been there a while so it's going to hurt. But I know I gave everything I had.''

Johnson admits he didn’t get on with Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Johnson admits he didn’t get on with Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Johnson and coach Stephen Kearney had major issues over the past two years.

"I've been there eight years and had six coaches,'' Johnson said. "The sixth coach didn't like me. So what.

"I rode the tough times, I tried to keep fans engaged, I tried to play a style that got kids excited every week.

"I know that, my family knows that, which is why I can say no, it (leaving) doesn't really affect me.

"Regardless of what a CEO says, that's been there a year or two, it (love for the club) dates back a lot longer for me.''

A young Johnson (L) celebrates the Warriors’ 2010 Toyota Cup victory.
A young Johnson (L) celebrates the Warriors’ 2010 Toyota Cup victory.

Johnson is 28. He's played 162 NRL matches with the Warriors since 2011, 29 Tests for the Kiwis and is championed as the face of rugby league in New Zealand.

Lesser clubmen across the game are regularly kept up to speed with their football department's plans and roster strategy.

It wasn't the case for Johnson.

"The Raiders obviously reached out and the Roosters were appealing, but the Sharks with the roster and squad they've got, that's ultimately what excited me the most and where I felt I could add the most real value,'' Johnson said.

"You want to go somewhere and know what is going on with the squad and Flanno (Shane Flanagan) was unreal in letting me know the exact status of every player.

The Kiwi star could have had his pick of NRL clubs. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
The Kiwi star could have had his pick of NRL clubs. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"Like, when they're signed until and what they might be thinking.

"And I was a part of that discussion the first day I came over and that was really big for me.

"I hadn't had a conversation like that at the Warriors for the last few years. I'd been left out of those conversations.

"So to come here and be brought in and told 'you're going to be a in key position for us, you need to know what is going on around you', I was like 'ahh - thank you'."

The Sharks have been engulfed by a salary cap investigation and financial problems, but Johnson said the overall stability of the club was enticing.

"There's been a bit of media around the club so we had some honest conversations before I'd even signed.

"I've come from a system where it has been a little inconsistent with coaches, players moving, results, owners even.

Johnson has given his all to the game in New Zealand. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Johnson has given his all to the game in New Zealand. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

"So to come to a place where you've got those faces that have been around a long time, it gives you that security and that's what you want.''

Johnson has been both celebrated for his attacking brilliance and maligned for his lack of control and consistency.

He is confident he can improve his game playing at five-eighth alongside former Warriors teammate Chad Townsend.

"The Warriors have been so good for me in that sense, building me, building me, building me, but I've sort of hit a plateau there,'' Johnson said.

"There's always things I'm improving in my game but just (not), that freshness side of things to really elevate yourself.

"I'm looking forward to it.

"There's not too much point talking about it, you've got to show. You've got to show you were brought here for a reason which is what I'm looking forward to."

Can Cronulla give Johnson a shot at the premiership? (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Can Cronulla give Johnson a shot at the premiership? (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Polished with the press, but far from clichéd, Johnson isn't afraid to declare the Sharks squad can undeniably allow him to collect an elusive premiership ring.

"They're a tough side which is only going to benefit me,'' Johnson said.

"Regardless of this year or next year, this was the team I wanted to come to.

"(Believing you can win a premiership) shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, I don't think that should even be a headline even.

"I feel like that's the standard.''

News Corp Australia


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