AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 31: Head Coach Stephen Kearney of the Warriors chats to Shaun Johnson after winning 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)

Following the early contract release of Shaun Johnson to Cronulla, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has said that he was surprised to hear that Johnson felt they had a poor working relationship, as reported by Fox Sports.

Johnson has signed a three-contract with the Sharks, having sought an early release from his Warriors obligations, and cites his unhappiness with Kearney as one of the reasons for his departure.

“I’ve been there (Warriors) eight years and had six coaches,” Johnson told reporters in Sydney.

“The sixth coach didn’t like me, so what.”

Kearney and Johnson’s history dates back to 2012, when Kearney, as coach of New Zealand, introduced Johnson as a replacement for Benji Marshall.

When Kearney became top dog at the Warriors in 2017, the playmaker was slated to be the jewel of the team’s crown.

“I can honestly say, after spending close to 20 Test matches working with him, and certainly at close quarters over the last two years … the first time I heard about that (poor relationship) was two weeks ago following the request for a release,” Kearney said.

“It came as news to me but I’ve been around the business long enough to know that that happens.

“It’s unfortunate that it happens and we all move on. I’ve got no problem with Shaun.”

Kearney reiterated that Johnson was a crucial cog in the Warriors’ plans for 2019 and that he was committed to helping him improve.

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