His brilliant second-half performance was not enough to help the New Zealand Warriors to a first NRL grand final victory but Shaun Johnson wants to hang around and be part of a club that has the makings of being a force for many years.
The Warriors contested finals in all three grades at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, with the club’s NSW Cup team the Vulcans going down 30-28 to an experienced Canterbury side and the Toyota Cup team beating North Queensland 31-30 in golden point.
However, it was the 21-year-old halfback, with less than 20 first grade games under his belt, that almost single-handedly helped the Warriors run down Manly in a frantic last 15 minutes before Jamie Lyon’s late try eased the Sea Eagles’ nerves and sealed a 24-10 victory.
Despite his lack of experience, Johnson was magnificent in defeat and his arrival as the brightest young talent in the NRL will almost certainly make him a man in demand, when he comes off contract next year.
The young Aucklander, whose exquisite pass set up Manu Vatuvei’s try to kick-start the Warriors’ best spell of the match, insists he has no interest in playing with any other club.
“The best thing here is that we are all pretty close, we are good friends with the guys in the Vulcans and the 20s, we spend a lot of time with each other throughout the year,” Johnson said.
“I am so keen to stay here, I love playing with the club and with so many of my friends, and we feel we have a very bright future here.”