Andrew Gourdie: The shock reason why Shaun Johnson wasn't worth the money

Opinion 01/12/2018
Shaun Johnson. Photo: Photosport.

By Andrew Gourdie, RadioLIVE sport host.

OPINION: In any business, in any industry, in any country around the world, the decision-makers make the big bucks.

It's the leaders who live and die by the success or failure of the business.

So for a club like the Warriors, in a salary cap competition, if you're going to spend a million dollars on anything, you're going to want value for money.

Ultimately, the Warriors came to the conclusion several months ago that Shaun Johnson simply wasn't worth it.

Johnson has grown up in a club with a crap culture and that will have certainly had an impact on him.

Johnson is a talented player - one of the best in the world on his day - but a million-dollar-a-season salary must also come with added responsibility, on and off the field.

So it may come as a surprise to some Warriors fans to learn that Shaun Johnson wasn't even part of the club's senior leadership group, before his dramatic departure from Mt Smart Stadium this week.

Now you have to ask yourself, why is one of the club's longest-serving players, easily the most high-profile, not given a leadership role at 28 years old?

What does that say about Shaun Johnson?

That either says he didn't want to be a leader, he didn't possess the qualities to be a leader or he didn't command the respect of other members of the squad.

Whatever the case, that doesn't sound like a million-dollar man in the NRL.

It certainly doesn't fit the profile of a million-dollar man in the new Warriors environment under this regime.

That would have been perfectly fine during much of the past decade, when a group of players led a poor culture at Mt Smart that led to high-profile off-field incidents like the 'night shift six' saga in 2016.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George announces Shaun Johnson's release. Photo credit: Photosport

Now all those players are gone, replaced by professionals. Over the years, there have been whispers of players like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke - players who developed their game and attitude across the Tasman - arriving at Mt Smart and being left stunned by the poor attitude to training.

Johnson has grown up in a club with a crap culture and that will have certainly had an impact on him. Suggestions that he wasn't the type to train the house down are hardly surprising - not the type to arrive first and leave last.

When Elijah Taylor - a player who debuted for the Warriors around the same time as Johnson and left the club in 2013 to join the Panthers - said he expected Johnson to benefit from a move across the Tasman, that's telling.

"There is a lot more demand," Taylor said. "The way that Australians train, it is very different to how the Kiwi boys train.

"With all respect, just the intensity at training sessions, I think it is going to be so good for his career."

Old habits die hard. For Johnson, perhaps the only way to break them was to break his contract.

Quite possibly, Johnson would never have realised his true potential in Auckland, where he was too comfortable as a big fish in a small pond. He may now enjoy success in Australia that he would never have enjoyed here.

That doesn't mean the club has made the wrong call.

Likewise, if the Warriors really were committed to a culture clean-out, they needed to remove the last remnants of the 'old Warriors'. They needed to send a clear message that no player was bigger than the club - even Johnson.

As the dust begins to settle on arguably the most explosive call in the club's 25-year history, a parting of ways might prove to be the best decision for Johnson - and the only decision for the Warriors.

Andrew Gourdie is Newshub sports presenter and RadioLIVE Sunday Sport host.