WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 19: Shaun Johnson of the Sharks kicks during the round 18 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Cronulla Sharks at Westpac Stadium on July 19, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Sharks great Paul Gallen believes Shaun Johnson would have made a "big difference" to Cronulla's finals hopes had he avoided injury and remained with the Shire club for the entire 2021 season.

The veteran playmaker signed with the Warriors in June after being notified his services were not required at Cronulla for next season, with Johnson eventually being granted a release from the Sharks after suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.

The two-month span saw Johnson's tenure with the Sharks come to an abrupt end as the club was on the brink of recovering from a disastrous start to their campaign and potentially qualify for a top-eight finish.

NRL Rd 9 - Sharks v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11: Shaun Johnson of the Sharks looks to pass the ball during the round nine NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on July 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Cronulla had rekindled some form in the latter half of the season under interim coach Josh Hannay and were in the finals frame until the final day of the season.

Johnson's absence, mixed with a number of setbacks for the Sharks, played a role in Cronulla narrowly missing a final berth, with Gallen stating the 31-year-old perhaps could have been the difference.

"I personally think Shaun's head wasn't quite there this year," Gallen said on Wide World of Sports

"I think when he decided to leave the club and that the club wasn't going to offer him another contract he was happy to find somewhere else to go.

"Had Shaun Johnson been 100 per cent and playing to the best of his abilities, he would've made a big difference."

Gallen also shed light on the fact that Johnson, along with other key names, were absent throughout the course of this season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Shaun Johnson of the Sharks runs with the ball during the round 17 NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on July 13, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

"Shaun Johnson didn't play a lot of footy. Matt Moylan didn't play a lot of footy, Josh Dugan played about 10 games," Gallen added.

"Wade Graham, the captain, had head knocks throughout the season... their biggest names, their most experienced players missed a lot of footy. That really went against them."

Johnson will venture to the Warriors for the next two seasons, with fellow playmaker Chad Townsend (North Queensland) and Dugan (retirement) the only other Sharks to have left the club.

NRL Rd 11 - Raiders v Storm
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22: Nicho Hynes of the Storm shares a laugh with a team mate after the warm-up before the round 11 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Melbourne Storm at GIO Stadium, on May 22, 2021, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon, Cronulla will welcome star trio Nicho Hynes, Dale Finucane and Cameron McInnes for the 2022 season.