Rugby League: Shaun Johnson's departure confirmed by Warriors CEO Cameron George

NZ Warriors star Shaun Johnson has been granted immediate release from the Auckland-based NRL club, with chief executive Cameron George announcing his departure to media on Wednesday morning

On Tuesday, reports surfaced that the 28-year-old halfback had requested a release from the club, after a messy month-long contract wrangle played out in the media.

The Warriors announced earlier this month that Johnson could test his value in the open market, while he was on tour with the Kiwis.

After returning to New Zealand, Johnson told Newshub that he hadn't spoken to club officials since their playoff exit against the Panthers in September.

On Tuesday, NZME reported that Johnson and his agent had met with George and coach Stephen Kearney to request an immediate release from Mt Smart Stadium.

"During the meeting, Shaun clearly demonstrated to us that he didn't want to be at the club in 2019," said George in a statement.

"On the basis of what Shaun told us, we are not going to compromise our culture - on and off the field - with people who do not wish to represent our club, members and fans in the way we expect.

"While it's disappointing it has come to this, we must acknowledge the contribution Shaun has made to the Vodafone Warriors. We're proud of what he has achieved at the club and wish him the best for the future."

George told media that the club had advised Johnson's management as long ago as September that it would not make an offer to extend his contract past 2019.

"You take your time when you are considering your expenditure across what we call the salary cap and we have to make sure we get it right," he said.

"We only get one chance to get this right each year, when players come up for renewal, so we weren't going to be dictated to by time deadlines at that point.

"We understood that Shaun would then be placed on the open market, but we never advised that we wouldn't consider Shaun as part of our future. We wanted to talk to Shaun when he returned back home after completing his duties to the Kiwis.

"There has been a lot of speculation from the media and with social media postings, so we met with Shaun and his manager yesterday, and Shaun requested that we provide a release from the club immediately.

"We gave that request from Shaun and his manager serious consideration, and today, we have verbally agreed to give Shaun a release immediately."

George confirmed the decision was made to protect the club's culture.

"Shaun's been a fantastic player for this great club, but he has a view that he wants to move on now, so based on that, we are comfortable that it's the right thing for the club to do.

"It's a club-first mentality and we don't want to compromise the progress we made in 2018, heading into 2019. We are in a position now where we are potentially the best-positioned NRL club salary cap-wise.

"I saw evidence yesterday in that room of a player who didn't want to represent this club in 2019 and asked accordingly so for his release.

"Based on that, we are not jeopardising what we have in place."

George insisted the stand-off was identical to Johnson's last contract negotiation two years ago - except in reverse. On that occasion, Johnson chose to test the market, before re-signing with the Warriors.

"We have to ensure the value and expenditure we spend on players is appropriate. You can't afford to overpay players or, in some cases, underpay."

Australian reports suggest the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks are chasing the playmakers signature.


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