NRL: Johnson hints at switch to sevens

By Steven Holloway

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has hinted at making a switch to sevens rugby ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Photo / Getty Images.
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has hinted at making a switch to sevens rugby ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Photo / Getty Images.

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has hinted at making a switch to sevens rugby ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

Johnson capped a tumultuous five days for the Warriors by expressing interest in a change of code to compete at Rio in a perversely jovial and slightly wacky press conference at Mt Smart Stadium today, revealing his manager has been in touch with New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens about a future link-up.

"At the moment it's just an interest of mine," Johnson said. "The idea got brought up a couple of weeks ago that it was a possibility and so I answered it truthfully, it's something I'm very interested in.

"I'm contracted here till the end of 2014, but we haven't got that far, if it would work or even if it was possible."

At this point Warriors captain Manu Vatuvei and halfback James Maloney quickly joined the media scrum, bellowing out calls of "RIO" and pretending to hold microphones.

"Why don't you just go and play sevens then mate?" beamed Maloney in his best journalist impression.

Johnson ignored the question, preferring to make it clear that he was not planning on leaving the 13th placed NRL side anytime soon.

"I've had texts from my mates and stuff asking if I'm switching to 15-a-side and if I'm going to be asking for an early release, and that's not the case at all.

"I got told Tietjens was trying to get hold of me, and a couple of people gave me his number. I didn't want to break any rules or anything so I gave it to my manager and he did the rest. They had a good chat to see if it's possible firstly and that's kind of where it's at.

"Some of the boys on the team are also getting carried away with a few stories."

That set off Maloney to fire away again.

"Shauny that's four years away, we're struggling for form at the moment, do you reckon your head should be more on the present?" he asked.

This time Johnson bit.

"I feel like I'm doing my part James - I wish you would do yours."

The reality of the matter is that everyone can do better.

The Warriors are on a six game losing streak and coach Brian McClennan paid the penalty on Tuesday for a series of well-below par performances.

"I feel really sorry for him (McClennan) and I think if you put all the results aside he was genuine about his job and loved his footy and did try his best.

"On behalf of the boys we don't like to see the coach take a wrap for the missed tackles we make or our poor decisions.

"But it is footy and it's all performance based stuff so if we're not delivering, I guess someone has to go."

After the interview the professional Johnson turned to prankster Maloney with a fierce look.

"You're jumping ship anyway, that was a bit rich from you."

The Warriors face the Dragons in Wollongong on Saturday night in the penultimate game of the season, and should the spiral keep heading downward, the laughter will surely stop for the players who plan on sticking around next year.

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