20 Feb 2019

Kearney: Johnson ship has sailed

9:31 am on 20 February 2019

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has no interest in regaining the services of former halfback Shaun Johnson should he have to depart the Cronulla Sharks.

Shaun Johnson

Former Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson. Photo: Supplied

Johnson joined the Sharks late last year on a three-year deal after the Warriors granted his shock request for a release from the final year of his contract with the Auckland club.

But Cronulla have subsequently become the subject of a salary cap investigation by the NRL and The Australian have reported the Sharks could end up having to let the 28-year-old go before the start of the 2019 season next month.

The Warriors are well placed in terms of the salary cap, while the Parramatta Eels and West Tigers are other clubs which reportedly could be in the mix if Johnson ends up back on the market.

Kearney, though, flatly ruled out chances of a Johnson return.

"That boat has sailed .... well and truly," he said when asked about the possibility on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the Warriors are adamant they didn't deliberately breach NRL anti-tampering rules when they offered a lucrative contract to rookie Parramatta half Dylan Brown.

Made by the Warriors late last year, the offer could reportedly be the subject of an NRL investigation.

Brown is signed with the Eels until the end of the 2020 season and, under NRL regulations, can't be spoken to by other clubs until November 1 this year.

However, Warriors chief executive Cameron George said they are confident the situation was not of their making.

Cameron George has signed off on the departure of Shaun Johnson.  Will he be looking for a new coach come the end of the 2019 season?

Warriors CEO Cameron George. Photo: Photosport

George said they have willingly sent all records of their correspondence with Brown's management to the NRL and are sure the club is innocent.

"It wasn't even our mistake. We were advised that Dylan Brown's contract expired at the end of 2019.

"A short time later his manager advised us that he in fact reviewed his file and there was a variation signed for 2020 with Parramatta Eels. So at that point in time we've got it on record and in writing that we'd withdraw our offer as soon as we were made aware of that.

"From the club's perspective we've done everything entitled to do within the laws and regulations of the game. [Warriors recruitment manager] Peter O'Sullivan withdrew his offer once the mistake was found by [Brown's] own management."

Despite the situation, George said Brown isn't completely off their radar for the future.

"He was certainly of great interest to us, the kid's got plenty of ability in the eyes of our recruitment team.

"But at this point in time we just have to wait until the end of the year, you never know what could pop up between now and then. We're always open-minded.

"As we've said all along that any person that we look to negotiate with coming into our system is going to be right for our club and our future. So that could include Dylan in the future or not."

George has also confirmed they are close to signing a three-year contract extension with coach Kearney, which will make him the equal-longest serving coach in the Warriors' history.

George says negotiations with Kearney are nearing an end and the 46-year-old is poised to stay at the club until the end of 2022.