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.
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.