Having had a week to sit with this Shaun Johnson yarn and meditate on what it all means for Johnson and New Zealand Warriors, I've come to a fairly nice place where the outcome of this situation will have a huge impact on the perception on SJ7. This is a nicer way of saying 'it's all on Johnson' which suggests that there is a load on Johnson's shoulders because of this, or pressure on Johnson and I'm instead, far more curious to learn more about Johnson.
As Johnson is the most polarizing sports figure in Aotearoa, learning more about Johnson is the most exciting aspect in all of this. I view Johnson as a very good footy player, above-average in all departments and this differs greatly to the extremes in which the mainstream media and many kiwis view Johnson. How you evaluate a Johnson performance for example, is going to be heavily influenced by how you view Johnson as a player; if you love Johnson, you're going to blow a solid performance up into the 'wow he was awesome' category and if you hate Johnson, a solid performance becomes the quintessential 'where was Johnson' conversation.
Both are as irrational as the other and have unfortunately plagued all coverage and discussion around Johnson.
New Zealand Warriors have laid their cards on the table. They have simply stated that if Johnson wants the same high salary, or more than what he is currently on, then Johnson would be wise to test the market as the Warriors aren't in a position to invest as heavily in Johnson as they once were. I explored all that in the initial thing I wrote last week and this all comes down to the leverage the Warriors now have as they sorted their shit out.
With a simple scenario offered by the Warriors, Johnson has to decide what is most important to him. No one outside of the professional sport realm can begrudge, or judge an athlete for taking the contract that offers the most money. Johnson isn't demanding any amount of money, Johnson will instead field offers and his value is strictly based on what other NRL club want to offer.
To take the most money is all good and Johnson will simply be cashing in on his market value - his market value is created by the market and - I must reinforce this - NOT JOHNSON. However, along with any contract that is equal to his current contract or greater, comes the opportunity for Johnson to step outside his comfort zone, challenge himself and start a new chapter. Who knows which is more important, that's all personal perception. But when the financials are nice and you have the chance to level up as an individual, that could be viewed as the ideal scenario.
Keep in mind that Johnson has consistently spoken out against negative media and fan attention. The irrational extremes in which people view Johnson could play a role in pushing Johnson towards Australia, where instead of being the big fish in a tiny pond, Johnson becomes a normal fish in a big pond. When I put it that way, I'd be on the first flight across the ditch and all three factors (money, self-growth and escaping the negative vibes) work in favour of Johnson moving to Australia.
Being in Australia would also help Johnson off the field as he builds his apparel business and any other personal brand stuff, which Johnson has done a fantastic job of establishing. Johnson has laid his brand foundations down and built a couple levels on top of them during his career in Auckland, moving to Australia would only present more opportunities, different opportunities.
What would keep Johnson at the Warriors? Or more specifically; why would Johnson take less money to stay at Mt Smart? Love for the club, unfinished business, legacy, success after years of mediocrity.
The biggest factor in all of this, could be what the Warriors have done since Stephen Kearney's arrival. I have consistently discussed how the Warriors have recruited the best staff to fill off-field roles and simultaneously they have recruited an impressive list of established NRL players, while also luring others like Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu back to Auckland.
Regardless of how you view the Warriors, this is quite simply because the Warriors have sorted their shit out and are an NRL club on the rise. How else do you recruit Alex Corvo, Peter O'Sullivan, Brian Smith and Nathan Cayless to Mt Smart? These guys are among the best, if not the best in their respective roles and are wise footy brains, they are here because they see what is happening and the same applies for players.
I hammer this point down because I can sit here and tell you that the Warriors are on the rise, but even as Aotearoa's leading Warriors journalist you might not believe me. No worries, but you're going to stick with your own opinion ahead of all these NRL staff and players who have joined the Warriors since Kearney's arrival? Bruh, later bo.
Johnson isn't just seeing this, he is in it, living this every day and with Simon Mannering retiring, Johnson has been at Mt Smart for the longest of the current squad. Johnson has seen it all and he has endured a lot, which could then lead to Johnson wanting to stick around and be play a further role in the rebirth of the Warriors.
The possibility of Johnson, turning down bigger contracts to stay at the Warrior would be a beautiful thing. This would be yet another example that the Warriors are heading in the right direction and Johnson would instantly flip the narrative on him as a player and his career. Having the best players take less money to be part of something they love, is a staple of the best sporting franchises in the world and Johnson would be celebrated for his love and sacrifice for the Warriors.
Either way, Johnson wins.
And that's another angle to all of this as Johnson's going to be sweet either way. I've laid out both scenarios for you and there are no legit negatives to either. This decision then becomes an insight into the mind of Aotearoa's most polarizing sports figure and what he values most.
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Peace and love 27.