The treatment of Shaun Johnson by the Warriors has been "pretty harsh", according to one of his Kiwis teammates.
Johnson's future at the Auckland club has come under the spotlight over the last week, after the Herald revealed last Friday that the player and his management had been told they were free to explore other options when the November 1 transfer deadline passed.
Warriors' CEO Cameron George also confirmed to media that while they were "open-minded" about the future, the club was "not going to be scared to make big calls on any player."
While the Auckland club might argue they were being transparent, the revelations have created a firestorm across the NRL. It was strange timing, and an unnecessary distraction on tour and an unusual way to conduct negotiations with a marquee player.
Kiwis five-eighth Kodi Nikorima was certainly surprised.
"I thought it was pretty harsh how it all came out, with him being on the other side of the world, not having control of that," said Nikorima. "I've spoken to Shaun about it. I just told him, stay focused, you are part of this team now and the rest will just take care of itself."
Johnson is always a focal point — no matter who is he playing for — and the recent news has only increased the spotlight on him.
He had a mixed game in the first test defeat and is probably feeling more pressure than ever, but Nikorima said the 28-year-old is handling the situation well.
"We haven't really spoken too much about it," he said. "He's a professional and I just had a quiet word to him myself because he is my roomie. He doesn't show too much and he is still the same Shaun Johnson as he was when he first came over here, before all that news came out. In terms of how he's been, he's just the same. He's not really spoken about it. He's a professional and I love playing with him."
Nikorima also admitted that the developments are symptomatic of the corporate side of the NRL, especially around marquee players.
"I guess it just shows that this is a business that we live and play in, unfortunately," said Nikorima. "No doubt when he gets back home he will sort it all out."
Johnson and Nikorima's developing partnership will be key on Sunday (Monday morning NZT).
They showed their potential as a combination in the win over the Kangaroos in Auckland, but couldn't replicate that performance last week in Hull.
"That's something we spoke about. I think we ran it a couple of times on the last and it didn't come off," said Nikorima. "Credit to England they did their homework on us and didn't give us many options to kick the ball and forced us to run."
The first 30 minutes of the match, when the Kiwis created several opportunities and were dominant by building pressure, showed the template for the team.
"We were putting it in the corners, making them force errors, gave us opportunities down in their own end to put plays on," said Nikorima.
"But then we went away from that in the back end of the first half, running it when we probably shouldn't have and turning the ball over not on our terms. It hurts when we are not getting that right. Definitely for me and Shaun this week we will be trying to build as much pressure as we can."