When the Warriors pitched Ronald Volkman the opportunity to become the long-term successor to Shaun Johnson in the club’s No.7 jersey, the usually self-assured teenager had to overcome a rare case of imposter syndrome.
Considered one of the game’s best teenage prospects after standing out in the lower grades for the Roosters, 19-year-old Volkman was pinching himself when the Warriors came calling with a deal through to the end of 2025 and the chance to serve an apprenticeship alongside Johnson.
"When my manager told me the Warriors really wanted me, and how long they wanted me for, I kind of second guessed him, I said ‘bro, are you sure? I still have a lot to prove’,” Volkman told NRL.com.
“It was a weird time because that was the first time I had experienced a club really wanting me to be a part of what they wanted and a part of their future.
“I jumped straight at the opportunity, because you don’t get that many opportunities like that, especially considering I had no first-grade experience.
For a club to have that much confidence in me, I didn’t take that lightly.Ronald Volkman
In winning the race to sign Volkman ahead of several other NRL suitors, Warriors general manager of football Craig Hodges said being able to offer the chance to learn off Johnson was a key factor.
“That was certainly part of the opportunity and I think Ronald was able to see that, that he gets the opportunity to play with, learn off, and train beside Shaun, and even Chanel [Harris-Tavita],” Hodges told NRL.com.
“What a great experience for any young half.
“Then he gets an opportunity one day to hopefully take over from them.
Volkman with the monster 40/20
“We’re really excited and confident about the pathway we have chosen [as a club].
“Our challenge I guess was to get that message across to Ronald.”
Volkman said Johnson was already feeding through some priceless advice about the reality of being a young playmaker in the NRL Telstra Premiership.
“He’s been really good actually and giving me a lot of advice about what to do, as well as what he missed out on doing when he was around my age,” Volkman said.
“He’s really backed me and it’s good to hear that from one of the older boys who you looked up to when you were younger.”
In his two NRL games to date Volkman has experienced both the harsh reality of a 40-6 beating at the hands of defending premiers Penrith, and the thrill of an emotional 22-2 win over the Tigers in the Warriors’ return to Auckland.
Second-rower Josh Curran said the senior playing group have been impressed with his tendency to speak up in meetings and on the field.
“For a young kid he has stepped up. We were in the huddle after we scored (against the Tigers) and he was yelling at the older boys,” Curran told NRL.com.
Match Highlights: Warriors v Wests Tigers
“That’s what we love. We don’t care how young you are.
“He’s directing the team around well and working with Shauny.
“He’s got a big future ahead of him.”
With Harris-Tavita stepping away from the game at the end of this season, Volkman and incoming signing Luke Metcalf, who will join from the Sharks on a two-year deal next year, look set to compete for a spot alongside Johnson in the halves in 2023.