Shaun Johnson won’t head to Canberra for next year’s NRL season, even if he does successfully gain a release from the Warriors.
RNZ understands the Warriors have so far refused to grant the request, but the ball is in their court as they further consider if that will be their final decision and Johnson will stay in Auckland for at least one more year.
Johnson had been linked to a move to the Raiders in a bid to solve their vacancies in the halves, after Blake Austin left the club at the end of 2018.
However, it’s understood the Raiders would not be able to fit him into next year’s salary cap, meaning he won’t end up in Canberra.
It would also mean Aidan Sezer and Sam Williams might be the club’s halves next year, unless there are any dramatic late changes.
There are also questions over whether any clubs will be able to fit the 28-year-old into their cap for next season even if they have the desire.
Cronulla were another club linked to the Kiwis No 7 on Tuesday, given the space in their budget following the departure of [ttps://www.radionz.co.nz/news/sport/376435/holmes-chasing-nfl-dream NFL hopeful Valentine Holmes].
The Sharks wouldn’t rule out making a play at the halfback in the future, although they have Shane Flanagan’s son Kyle as an up-and-coming playmaker at the club.
They also reached last year’s finals with Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend at five-eighth and halfback.
The Sydney Roosters were previously considered another option for Johnson as a replacement for Cooper Cronk, however that space wouldn’t open up until the end of next season.
Parramatta are another club who could be in the market for a half at that point, with both Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman off contract at the end of 2019.
The pair have reportedly been shopped around in recent months, with the Eels in a tight fit on their salary cap as shown by their struggles to re-sign Jarryd Hayne before his latest off-field developments.
Regardless, Johnson’s departure would leave the Warriors scrambling to find a halfback next year to partner Blake Green.
It’s potentially why they refused to release him when he met with chief executive Cameron George and coach Stephen Kearney on Tuesday.
George has not returned calls from AAP on the matter.
Their backup for the last two seasons, Mason Lino, has left for the Newcastle Knights.
Johnson’s form has been inconsistent in recent years, including this year’s campaign in which they reached the finals for the first time since his debut in 2011.
His current two-year contract was believed to be a club record seven figure deal.