Shaun Johnson finally arrived in Sydney to speak with the local media after agreeing to a 3-year pact to join Cronulla last week. When given the chance to take a jab at his former club, the Warriors, however, he declined. Warriors CEO Cameron George had Johnson in his crosshairs after the club decided to release him from the final year of his contract, but Johnson refused to throw his former club under the bus.
George said that Johnson’s inconsistency played a role in his team’s decision to release the player, and it was a determining factor in the Warriors’ decision not to offer him a contract extension beyond the 2019 season. Instead of taking the low road, Johnson said that he has great memories of his time with his former club and he’s looking forward to the new challenges that come with playing in Sydney.
Cronulla-Sutherland, who finished fourth in the NRL ladder this past season, are listed at 13-1 (check out LegitGamblingSites.com for more on NRL betting) to win the 2019 Grand Final. The side finished fourth in the ladder last season, while Johnson’s New Zealand side were eighth. Sydney Roosters, who won the ‘18 Grand Final, are the odds-on betting favorites to repeat as champions at 4-1.
Johnson said, “They can say what they want. Both parties are happy with how it ended and I’ve got nothing bad to say about the club. I had 8 years there where I got to live out a dream I’d had since I was a kid. It was a bit of an emotional time but all I’m looking forward to is coming over here and just playing some good footy for the Sharks and immersing myself in the community, and getting out and seeing some kids.”
Johnson added, “I’ve already had people drive past and throw out the shaka’s to me so it’s all really exciting now.”
While he was still under contract with his former club, Johnson ignited a bit of a controversy after going on social media in order to tell fans that he was taking the chance to “spread my wings” after the club said in October that he was free to seek a deal elsewhere.
Johnson subsequently defended his Facebook post before demanding the Warriors release him the next day. He addressed the controversy at the press conference when he said, “I just saw what was being said, and I know sometimes in the media things can get twisted a little bit, so I just said, ‘well, I’ll put it out in my own words and people can take it however they want.’”
“I was just saying it from my side and what was actually happening from my point of view,” he added.
Johnson spent 8 successful seasons with the Warriors, and he admitted that it’s going to be weird for him to suit up for a different club and face his former team. The Warriors will host Johnson’s Sharks in round 18, but Johnson won’t be able to play in his old stadium as the match is slated to be held at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in July. The teams will meet for a second time at Shark Park in late-August.
About facing his old club, Johnson said, “It’s going to be weird. I think a lot of people expect me to give the answer where you say ‘it’ll be fine,’ but no, it’s going to be weird. I’ve got some good mates there, some boys that I’ve seen develop into full-bodied first graders that you’re around every day for a long time, so it’s going to be really weird. But at the same time I know they’re going to be feeling the same, so they’ll be getting stuck into me and I’ll be giving just as much back and it will be a good game of footy to watch I think.”
Johnson will reportedly head back to New Zealand for the holidays before packing up and moving to Sydney on a full-time basis shortly after the new year. One of the driving forces in Johnson’s decision to sign with Cronulla was his close friendship with Sharks halfback Chad Townsend, who played with Johnson with the Warriors in the past.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan is expected to shift Matt Moylan from five-eighth back to fullback full-time in order to allow Johnson to fill his familiar No. 6 role. The Sharks are known for having a rough-and-tumble style, but Johnson believes he can add a bit of flavor. He said, “From afar, I’ve always really admired how tough they are. They’re tough and they like to throw the footy around so I think I can add value there. I really enjoyed my time playing with Chad, so he was another big reason why I wanted to head down this way.”
Johnson also admitted that the beach lifestyle afforded to him in Cronulla doesn’t hurt matters. He said, “I didn’t know too much about Cronulla, and then get here and see the style of living, the beach and good weather, it’s all pretty exciting.”