Rugby league: Warriors rule out Shaun Johnson return in wake of Sharks' salary cap dramas
The Warriors have ruled out any prospect of Shaun Johnson returning to the club — but are open minded about a future pursuit of Parramatta teenager Dylan Brown.
While the Warriors finalise preparations for their first pre-season trial on Friday against the Melbourne Storm, Johnson's situation at the Sharks remains unclear.
It's believed that Cronulla's salary cap breaches could be worst than first suspected, which means they may be forced to release players to fit under the cap.
Johnson's position, as one of the most recent signings, makes him more vulnerable.
It's still an unlikely scenario, but not out of the question, with Aaron Woods' short lived stay at the Bulldogs last season a recent similar example.
Given the scenario, Warriors' coach Stephen Kearney was asked today if there would be any interest in Johnson, if he "popped up" on the market.
"I think that boat has sailed...," said Kearney, "....well and truly."
That's no surprise, given the messy way his exit played out, with recriminations on both sides.
However, the interest in Brown remains alive, despite the fallout from the Warriors' approach to the highly rated 18-year-old.
"He was certainly of great interest to us," said CEO Cameron George. "The kid has 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 would happen between now and then. We are always open minded and that could include Dylan in the future."
"He had a great deal of potential," echoed Kearney. "He was a Kiwi boy who had some big wraps on him and we have been tracking him pretty closely. We just want to make sure we are making the right decision to help our list and for our footy club. And we will continue to do that."
Their pursuit of Brown hit the headlines on Monday, after Australian media reported that the Warriors could have contravened anti-tampering regulations by offering the Auckland-born half a lucrative six year deal from 2020, despite being under contract to Parramatta until the end of that year.
However George reiterated on Tuesday that it was a mistake by the player's agent and the club will not have a case to answer, after pro-actively contacting the NRL Integrity unit.
"I front footed the situation," said George. "We [weren't] advised at all [on Monday] about an investigation. But given the media speculation I approached the NRL [integrity unit] and they have asked us to provide them with any material we had on record throughout any discussions we have had with [his] management."
"We were advised that his contract expired at the end of 2019," added George. "Our records show that discussions occurred with his manager at the appropriate time (November 1) and a short time later his manager advised us that he reviewed his file and there was a variation signed with Parramatta Eels for 2020. We withdraw our offer as soon as we were made aware of that."
George was confident that a "five minute" review of the relevant correspondence by the NRL will show the club has no case to answer.
From a football perspective, Kearney confirmed that Nathaniel Roache will make his long awaited comeback on Friday, after missing the whole of last season with a back injury. That misfortune came after a ruptured achilles cut short his 2017 season.
Kearney also said that Issac Luke and Blake Green are both tracking well to be ready for round one, and in the Australian's case, possibly the second trial next week in Whangarei.