Raiders fans across the world are getting a little bit excited by a rumour printed in the Daily Telegraph that the Green Machine is making a play for dynamic Warriors half Shaun Johnson.
Before you get carried away, we’d like to point you to what we referred to as the ‘ridiculous rumour mill’. If you can’t be bothered clicking the link, the short version is that this happens almost every other year. A star – or his agent – looking for a contract tries to generate interest by pointing to Canberra as a possible home. The Raiders make their pitch, and the rumour that he might choose Australia’s capital runs around. In the meantime the player uses whatever rumoured amount he can get from Canberra to increase his worth at home (or abroad in this case).
The Raiders have apparently done Johnson the favour by nominating him as a target – though the article does not actually quote anyone from the organisation. There’s been no word whether Johnson is interested, no quote that the Raiders want him. Just a rumour, perfectly timed to coincide with Johnson hitting the market looking for a deal. Every other club will be in line too.
That’s not to say Shaun Johnson doesn’t want to make Canberra his home. He may well choose the Raiders. But deep breaths are probably a good idea right now.
There’s plenty of people that benefit from these rumours. Canberra’s reported interest will mean the expected litany of other clubs lining up for Johnson will have to come with money. This is not only good for Johnson (and his agent), but also the Warriors, who are desperate to have a good chunk of his 2019 salary off the books.
The salary cap is also a stumbling block for the Raiders. As Peter Mulholland noted back in July, the Raiders don’t have any space for 2019. Johnson is rumoured to be on upwards of $1 million. Given the Raiders don’t have a spare nickle, they’ll be competing with other sides that have actual money who will be able to offer Johnson more.
What’s also worrying is that if the Raiders do nab him, it would be more than likely with a back-ended contract. That would make the current negotiations with Jordan Rapana more difficult. The biggest name of the Green Machine off contract after 2019, Rapana has been one of the best backs in the competition for three years now. Canberra is already in an uphill battle to keep him. I can imagine many fans are a little less excited at the prospect of Johnson if it means Rapana walks.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that he would be an electric addition if he came. He’s a dynamic player and would fit perfectly into the side. Sezer and Hodgson would organise the show, leaving Johnson to torment edge defenders with his brilliant ball play and undeniable running game. Shit he’s done it to the Raiders almost every time they’ve played him. The Raiders would undeniably be better with him in the side than not.
But before you start booking hotels in Sydney for early October 2019, I suggest taking a deep breath. It’s time to play the waiting game.
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