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Star half Shaun Johnson has been granted an immediate release from the final year of his contract at the New Zealand Warriors on Wednesday morning.
Johnson, who has played 162 games for the club since his debut in the NRL 2011, reportedly asked for the release yesterday after speculation about his future playing destination was talked about.
It was rumoured the Warriors were yet to offer Johnson a contract extension beyond the end of his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of the 2019 season.
Johnson then posted on social media, saying he would prefer for the news to come from him that he hadn’t been offered anything beyond the end of 2019.
“Firstly there is no contract for me to sign past 2019,” read the statement.
“Secondly, if you saw the article that came out a few weeks back..In a roundabout way they said they are in no rush to re-sign me. Since then they have told me again at this stage they wont be offering me anything.
“That means I get to spread my wings and see what’s out there so right now that’s what I’m doing!
“All of you know how much the warriors mean to me and how grateful I am for the opportunity they have given me to live my dreams and play the sport I love!”
The speculation around Johnson’s immediate future ramped up on Tuesday afternoon, with the half asking for a release which has today been granted.
Warriors CEO Cameron George said it was the best thing for the club if Johnson were allowed to leave a year early.
“Yesterday (head coach) Stephen Kearney, (recruitment manager) Peter O’Sullivan and I met with Shaun and his manager Peter Brown,” he said in a statement.
“During the meeting, Shaun clearly demonstrated to us that he didn’t want to be at the club in 2019.
“On the basis of what Shaun told us, we are 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.
“Everything we do is about the club being first and what’s best for our future, our development and ultimately our results.
“While it’s disappointing it has come to this, we must acknowledge the contribution Shaun has made to the Vodafone Warriors. We’re proud of what he has achieved at the club and wish him the best for the future.”
While the destination for Johnson is yet to be determined, the 2014 golden boot winner is immensley talented and should have no problems finding a club to call home in 2019.
He has been strongly linked with the Cronulla Sharks, who lost Valentine Holmes to the NFL in the past weeks, while rumours are also circulating that the Parramatta Eels may be interested.
The St George Illawarra Dragons may be another club where he could end up, given news broke in the last 24 hours regarding the status of Gareth Widdop, who reportedly wants to return to England.