New Zealand Warriors whiz kid Shaun Johnson was nearly lost to AFL when he attracted the interest of scouts in 2006.
Tagged the next Benji Marshall, rookie halfback Johnson will attempt to steer the Warriors to their first premiership when he goes head-to-head with Manly Sea Eagles sensation Daly Cherry-Evans in the grand final.
But the 21-year-old, one of New Zealand sport’s hottest prospects, could easily be starring for Sydney Swans.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Johnson played Australian rules at 16 and appeared on the AFL’s radar when he was named New Zealand’s best player in 2006 at an international youth tournament named after the legendary Ron Barassi.
While Johnson has received rave reviews for his attacking skills, his brief stint in Australian rules proved just as beneficial.
The boom playmaker honed his kicking game at Orewa College under his coach Craig Ashton, who played Australian football and has since been employed by the Warriors as kicking coach.
The quick-stepping No. 7 did not get his chance until round 13, but has been so composed coach Ivan Cleary could not resist his game-breaking brilliance.