Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Time for Warriors to swing the axe on Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson of the Warriors looks on during the round three NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors looks on during the round three NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm. Photo / Getty Images.

Time for the Warriors to start afresh, to build a club full of the right attitude, yet again.

Time to swing the axe. This purge must start at the top. These are the players whose contracts need to be cut.

Manu Vatuvei

Represents much that has been both wonderful and bad at the Warriors. A power wing almost like no other. But his mistakes have been legendary, his defensive mis-reads a continual concern. The Warriors need to move on from his way.

Allowing younger members of the club to be caught out in his company socialising in the wee hours, with the Melbourne embarrassment fresh in the air, indicates his head is not in the right place.

The Warriors would miss his powerful re-starts, but there are far more athletic wings aplenty who score tries out of nothing. The Warriors have to believe they can un-earth players of that ilk.

The 30-year-old's time is up. It's time to thank the big man for all he has given, celebrate the good times, and let him go.

One thing which makes Wayne Bennett a coaching supremo is knowing when to let legendary veterans go, and having the strength of character to do something about it. Cue Andrew McFadden.

Shaun Johnson

A massive call, but one that has to be made. How long can any club wait for a bloke to prove he has the toughness to be a central playmaker every week.

Goes completely missing at times. Johnson is not a small bloke, but gets away with being a defensive nightmare and there is no room on the field for that anymore.

It's time for Tui Lolohea to be given his shot. (From a pure league lover's point of view, it would be amazing to watch Johnson reach his true peak somewhere, if he can.) The social pages would miss him in Auckland, but I wouldn't. Not anymore...and it's hard to believe it has come to this point for one of the most amazing players you will ever see at his best.

Look at the way Johnathan Thurston drove the Cowboys to the NRL title last year with a single-minded fury. Check out the relentless training and performances of the Melbourne superstars. Recall the ferocious competitiveness of "spine" players past, men like Geoff Toovey, Matthew Ridge, Allan Langer, Andrew Johns and on and on and on. Look at the up and comers making the absolute most of their abilities, like Cowboy Michael Morgan.

The NRL is a tough business, for sure. But that's what it takes, and that's what the Warriors must find.

Issac Luke

One of the dud buys of all time so far. To turn up for the new season under-prepared is unforgivable, infuriating. I believe his presence has been central to the chaos. He was there to lead the team, but has led them astray by example.

Virtually asked McFadden and Kiwis coach Steve Kearney to drop him last week - what does that say to the younger players? There was something admirably honest but annoyingly defeatist in that response. This is a time to show fight and desperation.

Konrad Hurrell

A waste of considerable space and negative influence. Re-tweeting criticism of his coach should be an automatically sack-able offence, especially given his history.

To let him stay would be a debilitating sign of weak management. Time to kiss goodbye a bloke who blows kisses off his hand when he gets handed tries by his team mates.

Hurrell was a potential world beater who has retained so many deficiencies in his game it's hard to know where to start. Has already plummeted through the thin ice he was skating on.

Jonathan Wright/Blake Ayshford/Jeff Robson

Maybe a couple of these blokes have seen much better days. But the Warriors must aim higher than where these Aussie journeymen are now. The Warriors do need some Aussies, but only those at or near the peak of their game or with exceptional promise.

How - with all the raw talent available in Auckland - does a player like Wright end up on the wing.

The player I'd like to sack (out of frustration) but can't quite do it yet is...

Ben Matulino

He has been sensational at times, a candidate as the best prop in the NRL. Then goes off the boil, to a degree that he barely justifies a place in first grade. Just can't figure him out, but he's too good, has had too many great games, to let go. Come on Ben. You are a great player. Now be a leader. Otherwise, goodbye Ben as well.

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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