NRL: Johnson gets used to life in the fishbowl

By Michael Brown

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.

In recent weeks, Shaun Johnson has apparently been a contestant on X Factor, been the subject of a $600,000 offer to join Penrith, had dinner with New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens about playing at the 2016 Rio Olympics and asked for a release from the Warriors.

One was said in jest, because he bore a close resemblance to one of the members of a boyband on X Factor, but the others were rumours doing the rounds.

None are true, he said.

It would be naive to think there is never an element of truth to some rumours around players in almost any sport but, equally, a lot are often incorrectly portrayed as fact when there is little justification for it. It's often difficult to separate fact from fiction in this era of social media, when the general public can get some tasty tidbit, true or otherwise, into the public eye.

Johnson is not yet at the level of interest and speculation of someone like Benji Marshall or Sonny Bill Williams, but it is something he is having to come to terms with as he makes his way in the NRL.

"I don't know where any of this comes from,'' the 22-year-old said incredulously. ``I don't know why it always seems to happen around me.''

Most of it surfaces because Johnson is seen as crucial to the Warriors' chances of winning an elusive NRL title and many want to see him locked into a long-term deal. His present contract runs out at the end of 2015, with an option for a further year, but the Warriors are already planning to sit down with him and his manager sooner rather than later.

"With the best players, you don't generally want to let them get into the last year of their contract,'' Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said. ``Shaun is still developing but he's a top-line player and someone we think will go further and further. I would anticipate we would want to talk to him next year, if not sooner.

"He's not a player anyone in the club would want to lose and nearly all of our fans would say the same thing, I'm sure.''

Johnson said he was "very happy'' at the Warriors but added: ``Who knows what is going to happen down the track? I'm not going to put any limits on anything but, for now, I'm here.''

Tomorrow night he will be part of a Warriors side desperate to get back to their winning ways, after their five-game streak was snapped a fortnight ago by the Rabbitohs in Perth.

They will take on a Wests Tigers outfit reeling with the news Marshall has asked for a release from the final two years of his contract so he can switch codes and play rugby union. It might be the last time Johnson plays with or against Marshall, with the former Kiwis captain unlikely to be available for the upcoming World Cup.

It will provide an emotional backdrop to a must-win game for the Warriors, and they will also have to contend without injured props Russell Packer (hamstring) and Charlie Gubb (groin). Winger manu Vatuvei is also still a doubt with a shin injury.

Warriors: Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rpira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux, Ngani Laumape, Suaia Matagi, Sam Lousi (two to be omitted).

Wests Tigers: James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Tim Simona, Benji Marshall, Curtis Sironen, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah (c), Adam Blair, Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson, Suaso Sue. Interchange: Ava Seumanufagai, Jack Buchanan, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Braith Anasta, Shaun Spence (one to be omitted).

- APNZ

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