AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 31: Shaun Johnson of the Warriors looks on during the round 25 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Former Warriors coach Tony Kemp believes the club will not retain gun halfback Shaun Johnson and should instead pursue Penrith star Nathan Cleary.

It comes after the Warriors were knocked out of the finals by the Panthers on Saturday in a quiet showing from their marquee playmaker.

Kemp would like to see coach Steve Kearney remain at the helm, but was adamant that Johnson needed to be shipped off.

“If there was ever a game where Shaun Johnson needed to step up and take hold of the reins it was Saturday night and it just didn’t happen,” Kemp told Radio Sport Breakfast.

“The difference between those two teams was whether Shaun Johnson was going to show up and play.

“What really needs to happen in the off-season…most good coaches would ask will the No. 7 and No. 6 win us a competition?

“I think it’s time to start thinking about whether or not they are ever going to win a competition with the million dollar player in the number seven jersey.

“I love Shaun to death, I think he’s been great for the Warriors (but) he hasn’t been an immortal like a Johnathan Thurston or a Cooper Cronk, a James Maloney.

“I’m not suggesting that (not resigning him). But I don’t think they will.

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“They are looking at winning a grand final. I’d be throwing $2m (a season) at someone like Nathan Cleary, a 20-year-old who has the goods to show up week in and week out.”

Radio Sport sideline commentator Dale Budge added that Johnson was one of several Warriors that were disappointing on the day.

“He had a disappointing game, as did a lot of Warriors players. Johnson had very limited impact on the outcome of the game and the way the Warriors played, as did Blake Green. As did Adam Blair, Solomone Kata or David Fusitu’a, Issac Luke. A whole lot of players… there were some key Warriors players who weren’t able to influence the outcome of the game,” Budge told Radio Sport.

Shaun Johnson is never going to be Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston. He’s never going to be able to inspire a team that isn’t dominating up the middle third with the forwards, Budge told host Elliott Smith.

“I don’t understand why he gets singled out to the degree that he does. I don’t understand New Zealand sports fans’ obsession with trying to bag certain players. I put him in the same category as Brendon McCullum.

“The criticism of Johnson is out of proportion to the criticism of other players in the side and what went wrong.”


  1. 2 million a season for Cleary??? Even he has been quiet at different times throughout the year. Leave Johnson alone, he wasn’t the only one that didn’t have his best game.

  2. Shaun isn’t a big game player. Since he done this knee 2 years ago he has been soft and scared. I’d target signing James Maloney back. I’d love to replace Shaun but every team in the Comp won’t just let go of a Star half. The only congrats I’d have if how amazing a player he could be in a system like the storm have with Smith calling the shots, forwards always setting a platform, some of the best backs in the Comp and one of the best coaches of all time.

  3. $2M per season?
    I doubt it, he is worth about $500k to $600k per season at the most.
    If Maloney wasn’t there, the Panthers would lose.

    • I think you’re right. Maloney has been setting up most of the wins Penrith have had this year. Despite all the hype around Cleary. When Cleary was out , Penrith marched on. When Maloney was out , they struggled.
      The only real exception to this was when Luai was at half & May was at 5/8th against the Warriors at Penrith. Even the two wins for NSW were on the back of some good work from Maloney & not much from Cleary.
      Two Million or One Million is ridiculous for Cleary, just as One is for DCE & Hunt.
      Penrith should make sure they re-sign Luai.
      Don’t have the Tigers sign Cleary & let Luai get away as well.

  4. Some of you clowns are good for a laugh GET REAL

    All the $$$’s in NZ will not get Nathan Cleary to the Warriors, NO WAY will he leave his family, especially with ambitions to be coach by his old man….

    The only place Cleary will end up is either the Panthers or Tigers, as for the Roosters, why not, Johnson would do well playing with the other Roosters Stars!! He will NEVER win a premiership in NZ

    Anyways, carry on chappies I am enjoying reading some of the comical comments some of you are writing


    • What’s with the Roosters? They will never take a chance on a young halfback.
      O’Sullivan was released from Penrith to the Roosters. As his father had close connections to the Roosters.
      Cronk won’t be around to long. So instead of investing in O’Sullivan as the future first grade half, they release him to sign at the Broncos.
      A mistake I think & may just be the key to lifting the Broncos higher in the future.

    • You scum rorters tried to poach about 3 years as he came off contract, so of course, they’ll have another crack with sugar daddy Politis’ bottomless pit of money to draw on, all off the books of course.

  5. I remember reading reports last year of him actually considering a move to the roosters, but to play at the back at 1. I think he would’ve been a absolute gun at fullback, with the roosters team and in their system, who knows what he could’ve done this year

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