Shaun Johnson will have no shortage of suitors in the next few months. The Warriors have invited Johnson and his management to test the market, and there is no doubt they will.

And plenty of clubs will be interested in the 28-year-old.

Maybe not for next year, due to salary cap constraints — and it's unlikely the Warriors would agree to an early release — but certainly for 2019 and beyond.

There would have already been interest expressed in the one-time Golden Boot winner through his manager, and that will only intensify as other clubs are allowed to begin formal discussions from November 1.


Johnson remains a match winner when on song. There is no sense in the NRL market that he is currently overvalued. But the discussions across Australia will be about his future potential, and what he can deliver in the next four or five years.

What has unfolded in the past few days, with the Warriors indicating they would hold off on offering Johnson a new deal, is a sign of a new, harder edge at the club.

The club is determined every deal and contract is assessed rigorously, with less room for sentiment than in the past.

That was sometimes a problem in previous years, when certain high-profile players were offered new deals based on what they might deliver, or had in the past, compared with what they were actually bringing to the table.

The new brains trust assembled by chief executive Cameron George are charged with making sure that doesn't happen again. As George said on Friday, "everyone at the club is under review constantly, regardless of who they are".

Johnson is an interesting conundrum. He's a more complete player than he was three or four years ago, especially defensively, where this season he exhibited a real desire and effort in that aspect of his game.

He's also still a game breaker without peer, someone who can find chinks in the highly patterned, highly drilled defences of the modern game.

The questions are around his game management and consistency. They've existed for the past few years, though have been tough to measure given the team's struggles.


It's a difficult balance. Another halfback may bring that but could have shortcomings in another area.

The club has also realised they need to invest in the pack. In the past five seasons, the focus has been on the spine; there was seemingly a belief that if they got that right, then the rest would take care of itself. That's why the Warriors threw millions at Sam Tomkins, why they brought Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke, and why they took a massive gamble on Kieran Foran. They have also spent heavily on Blake Green, and built their backline around Johnson.

But the forwards have been neglected. Tohu Harris and to a lesser extent Adam Blair were key signings this year, and there is also promise in the young and mid-level players coming through.

But the club hasn't signed a marquee prop in years, probably since Steve Price and Ruben Wiki were brought to Auckland in the mid-2000s.

Maybe that's the next play? Certainly something is needed in that area. They had some high points this year but in the end, their eighth-place finish probably reflected the strength and ability of their pack compared with the rest of the competition.