Written by Joshua Dean
Former Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson has had an up and down time at the Cronulla Sharks since his shock exit from the New Zealand Warriors after the 2018 NRL season. He has looked very impressive at times, however injuries have also hampered long runs of consistent form.
Johnson is a proven match winner, which is why many fans were shocked when the Sharks announced they were declining to re-sign the mercurial playmaker. Whilst there is definitely still a place for Shaun Johnson in the NRL, it all comes down to whether he can stay fit.
Reports suggest that many clubs are interested in signing him on a one year deal with the most frequently mentioned clubs being the Raiders, Titans, Rabbitohs, Bulldogs and his former club, the Warriors.
Let’s have a look at five potential landing spots for Johnson
A few weeks ago, it would have seemed ludicrous to put the Raiders in the Shaun Johnson sweepstakes. However, time moves fast in rugby league, with star halfback George Williams leaving the club due to personal reasons. Shaun Johnson would be a great replacement for a team that is one of the worst attacking teams in the competition this season. He wouldn’t have to kick goals, which would take some weight off his shoulders. The halves combination of Johnson and Wighton would become one of the most exciting in the NRL, making it a must-do for the Canberra Raiders.
GOLD COAST TITANS
The Titans are in a weird situation when it comes to their spine. Jamal Fogarty is a keeper, however his halves partner is the spot that many fans want replaced. Ash Taylor has not really proven himself too much since his breakout season many years ago. Signing Shaun Johnson could really improve the Titans. The thought of having Shaun Johnson running at you, with Dave Fifita in support would be a nightmare for opposition defences. The Titans would have to let go of Ash Taylor before they could do this, making it not too realistic, but this landing spot has major potential. Gold Coast have a long record of signing former Warriors players.
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Recent reports have stated that the Rabbitohs are keen on signing Shaun Johnson. This is because they will need a replacement for star halfback Adam Reynolds, who is heading to the Broncos next season. Again this move sounds great for both parties, due to the world class attacking game Johnson possesses. In saying this, can a partnership between Johnson and Cody Walker work, with both not being the greatest kickers? This can work if Johnson makes improvements on his game to become more of the game controlling half, which he has never done before. Deciding if Shaun Johnson and Cody Walker can work well together is the major decision Rabbitohs management has to make before the 2022 season starts.
SJ to South Sydney? YES/NO 💬
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) June 6, 2021
The Bulldogs are an interesting candidate for signing Shaun Johnson. They have been on a spending spree for the past few seasons and this signing would just add to that. However, two young halves (Matt Burton and Kyle Flanagan) are already locked up for next season and adding Shaun Johnson would mean that one would have to miss out. This rumour comes down to whether or not the Bulldogs truly believe in Kyle Flanagan. If they do, then Johnson will not be signed, however, if they don’t Johnson would be a perfect fit with Matt Burton. Many pundits place the Bulldogs as the current favorites for Johnsons signature.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
With any Shaun Johnson rumour, there is bound to be mention of his former club, the Warriors. He left on strange terms with former management and it is to be believed that the New Zealand side were keen on bringing him back, however senior players voted against it. This is actually a good thing, there is a saying ‘Never get back together with your ex’ and this feels very similar to that. It would be a step backwards for the Warriors to bring back Johnson when they have made significant progress as a club in the past few seasons. Signing him would be great for off-field publicity, however not as much on the field. A cut price deal to play 14 and replace Kodi Nikorima is the only way we can see this happening.
Shaun Johnson still has a lot of options in the NRL, even though he is fairly injury prone. This is because you cannot teach what he has in attack, he is world class. Whilst his defence is still a major issue, not many players can produce what Johnson can in attack.
Looking at the options, the Raiders makes the most sense, due to the fact he fits the timeline a bit more there. The Titans would be really entertaining, however they are so young and he will be 31 by the start of next season, so it may not work. Souths may look to bring him in using a similar strategy to how they signed Benji Marshall. The Bulldogs must discover what they have in Burton and Flanagan as a halves pair first and the Warriors should just stick with their young core of Walsh, Harris-Tavita and co.
So, Shaun Johnson will be at another club next year, the question is just where. Hopefully, for his sake, he stays healthy and once again shows he is one of the best halfbacks in the world and proves his doubters wrong.