The new season is almost here — it’s kind of snuck up on me. In less than two weeks the Warriors will be running around Eden Park in search of their first title of 2017. Usually January is prediction time, where we try to calculate numbers of wins and final positions on the ladder by mixing a measure of analysis together with a portion of what happened the previous year, before topping it off with a few sprinkles of guesstimation. But since the predictions of yesteryear have failed to hit the mark, maybe it’s time for something new.
It’s inevitable to dream about Stephen Kearney and Ryan Hoffman clutching the Provan Summons Trophy as Shaun Johnson admires his Clive Churchill Medal. But, no matter how things actually play out, the one prediction that’s bound to be right is that 2017 will be a year filled with storylines that sprout from all manner of places. So here’s a few I prepared earlier:
20 February 2017
Warriors re-sign Shaun Johnson
The Warriors have today announced the re-signing of their star playmaker Shaun Johnson in a three-year deal that would keep him at the club until the end of the 2020 season. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but it is widely acknowledged that Johnson will become the highest-paid player on the roster from next season onwards. While there was interest in Johnson from around the NRL and even English rugby, the 26-year-old announced today that he was always hopeful he’d remain a Warrior. ‘This is where I’ve grown up, where I feel at home. I never truly considered leaving. Hopefully I’ll be a Warrior for life and I’m just glad to have this all sorted before the season starts so I can focus on winning footy games for this club and for all the fans who’ve supported me since day one.’
Some fans love him, and others are quick to pile the blame on his shoulders, but that’s the baggage you have to carry when you’re the face of the franchise. There’s no doubting that at his best Johnson is one of the top halves in the competition, possessing that rare ability to create something out of nothing. He’s a match-winner, and as he enters the last year of his contract, with the salary cap set for a big increase, he’s sure to command a high price. Johnson’s decision will have a huge impact on the remainder of the year’s contract negotiations, and thus the future outlook for the club, with others such as Hoffman, Lillyman, Bodene Thompson and Albert Vete also on the last year of their current deal.
Would you make re-signing Shaun Johnson priority No. 1?