Warriors boss unloads on Johnson
THE New Zealand Warriors are making no apologies for sending Shaun Johnson packing with a giant kick up the bum, declaring the star halfback failed to consistently live up to his $1 million-a-season price tag.
As well as issuing a strong warning to NRL rivals about Johnson's shortcomings, the Warriors have also drawn a line in the sand for any potential marquee playmaker.
Warriors general manager of football Brian Smith and recruitment boss Peter O'Sullivan have been busy drawing up a hit list of possible targets in the wake of Johnson's shock request for a release, and one name who continues to be mentioned is Parramatta's Mitchell Moses.
Moses has one year to go on his deal at the Eels but it's no secret the club has been shopping him and other players to rivals in recent months.
While Moses' attitude has apparently been outstanding in pre-season training, he's probably the Eels' best hope to offload at this late stage.
Parra also have Jaeman Salmon and young gun Dylan Brown as back-up options to partner Corey Norman if Moses was to leave.
Moses is also managed by Isaac Moses who looks after Warriors coach Steve Kearney and his assistant Todd Payten, who formerly worked with Mitchell Moses at Wests Tigers.
Warriors chief executive Cameron George was adamant talks with any potential replacement had not commenced.
"We are definitely in the market. That is correct," George said.
"We are certainly well positioned salary cap-wise.
"In terms of Mitchell Moses it is not a push from our end.
"We have heard the speculation as well.
"But at this point in time Brian Smith and Peter O-Sullivan are looking at a large number of options and their phones are running hot.
"We are just going to take a deep breath and do what is right for the club."
And what wasn't right was keeping Johnson against his will, with George saying the club would not "compromise on culture".
"We have worked extremely hard in the last 12 months," George said.
"We have really enforced a footy club mentality where you have to play to your value and expectations.
"After our meeting with Shaun I saw a person that did not want to be here and I felt that was then going to jeopardise what we have in place and the progress of that in 2019.
"I am not going to go into the history of the club but I am fully aware the comment and/or view or perception of this club that accountability probably wasn't as strong as other clubs are.
"Shaun was a very well paid player here and for us to ensure that we are doing the right thing by our club long-term, the expenditure across the salary cap has to be spot on.
"The reality of our performance internally week-in week-out on and off the park is that we want to win this competition.
"And we expect anyone that we pay here on or off the field to perform to their maximum."
Asked specifically if Johnson was putting in to his "maximum", George said: "Look, I have no doubt the coaching staff had been working with Shaun around his performance, particularly consistency.
"I think without a shadow of a doubt that has been an issue that is apparent and that has been addressed by the coaching staff from time to time.
"In my personal view I think that has been certainly an issue that has presented itself for a while now.
"We need consistent performances and therefore we need consistent individuals, and not everyone has been doing that."