The Warriors have copped a huge serve from an NRL veteran for their handling of Shaun Johnson's departure.

Top NRL pundit Jamie Soward, the former State of Origin playmaker, has blasted the club as backstabbers and for "kicking" Johnson on his departure to the Sharks.

Johnson and his hometown club parted company on bad terms, including a comment from club chief executive Cameron George that Johnson's inconsistency was an issue.

Soward, who played over 200 first grade games, made a special point of criticising the Warriors while making predictions for the 2019 season on NRL.com.

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Soward believes the Warriors will collapse to 14th next season, although he predicted the Cronulla Sharks — Johnson's new club — will also fall outside the top eight.

"Can I just say I was very disappointed with how the Warriors handled the exit of Shaun Johnson," said Soward, who played for the Roosters, Dragons and Panthers.

"The backstabbing, the kicks (on the way out).

"What they did to that guy (who was) the face of that franchise, through all the bad times, the face of New Zealand rugby league...

"Every kid in New Zealand wants to be Shaun Johnson — for them to treat him like that is pretty disappointing. He deserved better and the Warriors didn't need to concern themselves with that (criticising Johnson)."

When asked how the Warriors could immediately replace the mercurial halfback, Soward said they couldn't.

"Chanel Harris-Tavita is a good young player on the way up, it's going to take time," he said.

"It will be Blake Green's team — I wouldn't be surprised if Green starts the year at seven and (Peta) Hiku or someone starts at six and they try and ease him (Harris-Tavita) into it.

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"You don't just build half relationships overnight. Those things take time. Shaun Johnson may not have played up to a million dollars but he was certainly your number one halfback in New Zealand.

"I think they struggle (in 2019). They should have done better last year, they should have finished fifth or sixth, possibly in fourth. They couldn't win the big games at home."

NRL pundit Jamie Soward...don't kick a player on the way out. Photo / Photosport
NRL pundit Jamie Soward...don't kick a player on the way out. Photo / Photosport

Soward said the retirement of Simon Mannering, the heart and soul of the club, would take a big toll.

The controversy-hit Sharks finished fourth last year but Soward predicted they would slip to ninth, hurt by factors such as an ageing forward pack and the long term injury to Wade Graham.

The pressure would be on half Chad Townsend to run the show, giving Johnson the freedom to cut loose.

Soward said the Roosters were certainties to retain their title.

"They don't have a weakness - you can book it," he said.

Soward's predicted 2019 finishing order: Roosters, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Broncos, Cowboys, Storm, Knights, Dragons, Sharks, Tigers, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Raiders, Warriors, Titans, Eels.