A former Warriors coach has predicted the club will not renew high-profile halfback Shaun Johnson's contract after the 2019 season.

Tony Kemp, a former Kiwis standoff, believes the club should begin a big money pursuit of Panthers No. 7 Nathan Cleary, who grew up in Auckland.

He also fears the Warriors' new owners could throw the club off-course and has called on the club to back Steve Kearney and aim for stability within the coaching staff.

While Kemp said the club had "improved out of sight" in 2018, he did not appear hopeful of them winning a maiden title next year with the erratic Johnson - who has just turned 28 - in the halves.


"If there was ever a game where Shaun Johnson needed to step up and take hold of the reins it was Saturday night and it just didn't happen," Kemp told the Radio Sport Breakfast after the sudden death defeat against Penrith in Sydney.

"The difference between those two teams was whether Shaun Johnson was going to show up and play.

"What really needs to happen in the off-season...most good coaches would ask will the No. 7 and No. 6 win us a competition?

"I think it's time to start thinking about whether or not they are ever going to win a competition with the million dollar player in the number seven jersey.

"I love Shaun to death, I think he's been great for the Warriors (but) he hasn't been an immortal like a Johnathan Thurston or a Cooper Cronk, a James Maloney.

"I'm not suggesting that (not resigning him). But I don't think they will.

"They are looking at winning a grand final. I'd be throwing $2m (a season) at someone like Nathan Cleary, a 20-year-old who has the goods to show up week in and week out."

Radio Sport sideline commentator Dale Budge admitted that Johnson has his worst game of the season but he wasn't the only one and says it's unfair to put the blame solely on the halfback following the side's exit.


"He had a disappointing game, as did a lot of Warriors players. Johnson had very limited impact on the outcome of the game and the way the Warriors played, as did Blake Green. As did Adam Blair, Solomone Kata or David Fusitu'a, Issac Luke. A whole lot of players... there were some key Warriors players who weren't able to influence the outcome of the game," Budge told Radio Sport.

"Shaun Johnson is never going to be Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston. He's never going to be able to inspire a team that isn't dominating up the middle third with the forwards, Budge told host Elliott Smith.

"I don't understand why he gets singled out to the degree that he does. I don't understand New Zealand sports fans' obsession with trying to bag certain players. I put him in the same category as Brendon McCullum.

"The criticism of Johnson is out of proportion to the criticism of other players in the side and what went wrong."

There will be at least one change among the coaches, with assistant Andrew McFadden moving back to Canberra and being replaced by Todd Payten from the North Queensland Cowboys.

Eric Watson sold the Warriors back to the Auckland Rugby League and a minority partner this year, and Kemp said the implications will now become clearer.

Kemp said: "Who knows what's going to happen in that front office. That's the real interesting part between now and February.

"I hope they don't touch the coaching staff. The Warriors are guilty of too many changes and they need to leave someone in there who will build a programme."

The temptation to overrule what has been set in place could be the "scary part".