"A bit weird"

That's what Shaun Johnson initially thought, when Cronulla's infamous forward Andrew Fifita rolled out a generous welcome mat.

Fifita insisted that Johnson come and stay at his place, when the former Warriors star signed for the Sharks.

Johnson — whose partner and Silver Fern Kayla Cullen has yet to join him in Sydney — was taken aback.


"When I came over here to sign I'd obviously known (Fifita) just playing against him over the years," Johnson told nrl.com.

"There were a couple of boys who really made an effort to make me feel settled, he was one of them.

"He straight away said if you need anywhere to stay, if you don't have a place, come and stay at mine.

"I was like, oh bro, a bit weird, I'll just stay in an apartment here. He said 'na na, honestly, come round, we'll put you out the back'. I didn't get what he meant.

"I get around there with my bags...he's got this nice house, mean pool out the back with this pool house, with its own bed, couch, TV.

"I said holeeeey. My perception of the big fella pretty much changed straight away. I loved staying with him, he was very good to me.

"His partner Nik and the kids were very, very good to me. I'll definitely be spending a bit more time around there even though I've moved into my own place."

Johnson said he was "really enjoying the lifestyle".


"It's pretty hard not to when you've got this at your front door," he said, surveying the Cronulla beach.

"I won't lie - it definitely is tough being away from family and probably something I didn't want to give enough thought to when I first signed that contract.

"I sort of thought I've been away six or eight weeks with the Kiwis and didn't get homesick, I'll be right.

"When you know you won't be going back and this is you now, it's certainly a different feeling. I'm sure players who have moved away from family would back me up. It's tough.

"The way I view things there's no point in living in a beautiful place if you are going to live alone.

"I can't wait for my partner to come over, my dad, my brother, friends have already booked trips to come over and see me.

"I'm very lucky I've got a very good supportive crew around me, a tight group that was always going to have my back."

He said the departure of coach Shane Flanagan - replaced by John "Bomber" Morris — had not caused him any lingering concerns.

"The assurance I got from the playing group probably squashed that straight away," he said.

"When I was signing Flano and everyone at the club was very open about what was happening. It's not like I was completely stung by it.

"Bomber has taken over the situations and rallied the group. The experience and the leadership within the playing group — it's like nothing ever sort of happened. Definitely no regrets or concerns."

Johnson said the Cronulla setup helped form a tight knit group.

"We do recovery here (at the beach), have a coffee or a smoothie, chew the fat," he said.

"It's so easy. It was a bit of a different situation in Auckland - we were quite spread out. Here everyone is so close."