The Warriors have more than $1 million to spend after releasing star playmaker Shaun Johnson for next season and may use the money to sign up to three new players as they seek a more balanced roster.
Johnson, the top scorer in Warriors history, requested a release after being told he was free to negotiate with rival clubs before being offered a contract extension for 2020.
While the Warriors had initially planned on Johnson remaining for next season at least, a decision was made on Tuesday night to allow the 28-year-old to leave immediately and he is expected to join Cronulla although the Sharks have not publicly declared their interest.
The sudden departure of the New Zealand five-eighth has left the Warriors short of halves options but club officials insist they won’t be rushed into signing a replacement.
Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses is among the players who have been linked to the Warriors next season but they may use the money now available to bolster their roster with two or three signings.
Warriors comfortable with decision to let Johnson go
Moses, Te Maire Martin, Luke Brooks and Corey Norman are the most obvious targets for the Warriors as they are off contract at the end of next season and may be persuaded to shift clubs sooner if they were offered a long-term deal.
Warriors CEO Cameron George said GM of football Brian Smith and recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan were working on a strategy for next season and beyond.
"We are in a position now where I would say potentially we are the best positioned NRL club salary cap wise and there are two very busy people in the back office now looking at all the options for 2019," George said.
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"We are going to find the right person to fulfil the roles that we require to have the best chance to win the competition and that takes good planning, good management, good considerations and there are many options. The phones have been running hot I can tell you that."
Regardless of who they sign, the Warriors have made it clear they won’t be paying the type of money Johnson was earning and had already decided if he stayed beyond next season it would be on a reduced deal.
George insisted at a press conference to announce Johnson’s release that the Warriors had never ruled out offering him a new contract for 2020 but wanted to ensure he was the best option for the club before making a decision on his future.
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He said Johnson’s manager Peter Brown had been informed of the club’s position in September and coach Stephen Kearney phoned the playmaker to discuss the situation while he was in England with the Kiwis.
"Two years ago, Shaun went to explore the market before he signed with the Warriors so in reverse we were just doing the same," George said.
"We were exploring our expenditure and that the value we place on players is appropriate because you can’t afford to over pay.
"We get one chance to get this right every year when players come up for renewal so we weren’t going to be dictated by any timelines at that stage so as such we understood that Shaun would be on the open market.
"We weren't going to be dicated to by any timelines. We don't want to compromise the progress we've made in 2018 heading into 2019. We're very excited about the squad that we've got, we are in a position now where I would say potentially we are the best-positioned NRL club salary-cap wise."
We weren't going to be dictated to by any timelinesWarriors CEO Cameron George
"Shaun has been a fantastic player for this great club and he has a view that he wants to move on now so based on that we are comfortable that is the right thing for our club to do.
"This club is going to go through a lot of good times in the future and we are going to have some tough times but this isn’t a tough time, this is an exciting opportunity for us to explore what is in the market place and to reset the balance of our squad.
"People talk about who you sign but sometimes it is who moves on that can reshape the future of your club."
Johnson, 28, played 162 games for the Warriors, scoring 63 tries and 915 points.
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