4 Dec 2018

Warriors ponder: how to replace Shaun Johnson?

6:29 am on 4 December 2018

The windfall created by halfback Shaun Johnson's early departure from the Warriors looks set to be used to boost other positions at the club.

Shaun Johnson won't be a one club NRL player.

Shaun Johnson won't be a one club NRL player. Photo: Photosport

Warriors general manager of football Brian Smith is strongly considering promoting a young half already on the Kiwi outfit's books or converting the versatile back Peta Hiku to partner Blake Green in 2019.

That would leave more than $1 million of salary cap money to spend elsewhere, with the pack a prime target for improvement.

Smith told stuff.co.nz Johnson's departure to a three-year deal with Cronulla handed Warriors management a chance to dissect the state of their roster.

He said they're not pursuing any halves elsewhere in the NRL.

"We're aware of what's available, but we're not in any hurry. It's a big jigsaw puzzle, it's not just halfback, but other positions we could potentially strengthen if the right guys come along," he said.

Chanel Harris-Tavita, Hayze Perham and Paul Turner are all candidates for promotion from the Warriors lower grades, while former Penrith backup halfback Adam Keighran is a new signing.

None of them have played first grade but Smith believed the experienced Green had the know-how to get a young half up to speed.

Kiwis international Hiku filled in occasionally at five-eighth last season but has been a centre or wider for most of his career.

Peta Hiku playing for the Kiwis.

Peta Hiku playing for the Kiwis. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Peta would be thought about there, but I don't think any of us are thinking of it as a permanent move," Smith said.

"But then again, if we were to give him a go and it worked, then great. He's certainly got the attacking skills to give it a shot."

Smith said introducing a young half could be relatively seamless as he'd come into a settled team in most other areas.

The relatively small Warriors pack is regarded as an Achilles heel, meaning some Johnson cash could yet be directed towards a big ball carrier.

They've lost Simon Mannering (retirement) and James Gavet (Newcastle Knights) but have secured the services of former Dragons forward Leeson Ah Mau.


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